Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thing 1

Send a thank-you card to a military member overseas for their service.

 Photo by Ken Jarecke

The Persian Gulf War started when I was 10 years old.  Almost one year later, Operation Desert Storm began.  At only ten years old I watched as my Brother's friends went off to war.  His peers had reached the age where serving our Country and going into battle became no longer just the games that were played on the local playgrounds and backyards, they had now became real life.  As a fourth/fifth grader I learned about how quickly life can change.  My Brother's cute friend (who looked like he could have joined any number of 80s hair bands) who had spent many nights crashing on the couch in our house, eating our cereal, and putting up with a 10 year olds obsession with him, was now on his way to fight for our freedoms.

All my brain understood was that his life was in danger, and he was living in the desert now.

I often times look back, through my grown-up eyes, and realize how lucky I was to have the Mother that I had.  She changed me and shaped so much of who I would grow to become.  As young men and women shipped out to fight and die, she took her children and made a difference; beginning at home. 

Our school tied ribbons on the fences in honor of soldiers away at battle.  My Mom went out and bought ribbon and made tiny ribbon pins for our family and friends to wear, daily, on our clothing, backpacks, purses and jackets.  The tree in our front yard was lovingly wrapped in a giant yellow bow. 

In school I learned about Saudi Arabia, chemical gas masks, bombs, deaths, and the fight. At home, my Mom had us all write letters.

My Mother came from a generation that was very familiar with the impact of War.  Her response was to do what little she could to bring a sense of home to someone far away.  So, at age 10 I wrote my first letter to "Any Soldier", and to Mike, my Brother's friend.

Mike was faithful to write me regularly and even now, 21 years later, I am friends with him on facebook.  Other soldiers wrote for awhile and then faded.  Some never responded.  A few wrote for several years after they'd made it home to their families.  Whether they wrote or not, I always pictured in my mind that one lonely soldier who rarely, or never, received mail.  At mail call I saw them watch as other people got care-packages from home, pictures of loved ones, and letters, never expecting anything.  And then, one day it changes, the superior officer hands them a letter; addressed to "Any Soldier".  For a moment the concerns and worries of their daily life and survival fade away, as they breathe in the hope of "home". To this day that thought is heart-warming to me.

September 11, 2001 changed American History by shaking the very ground that we had always felt secure on.  I have no doubt that each of us can recall specifics events of that day as the nation watched things unfold before our unsure eyes.  In 2001 we invaded Iraq.  Once again our loved ones were thrust into the front lines of battle.

In the early 2000s I became a "Soldiers Angel", a member of a group committed to sending care packages and letters to soldiers at war.  I also joined the Presidential Prayer Team, organized by President George Bush.  As  member I received several "soldiers" and their "details" as I committed to pray for them daily.  Somewhere in the early 2000s I found the "Any Soldier" organization.  I sent out several letters, with little expectation to hear back from someone.  Eventually, a letter came from a man named Michael.  I wrote him for many years, impressed by the advancement of technology.  Often times we emailed.  I'd keep him updated on games and scores and things back home, and he'd tell me about his wife, and his baby that was on the way.  Michael and I stayed in touch once or twice a year up until a little over a year ago.  My soldier made it home, safe and sound. 

"Why haven't I written any soldiers more recently?", I asked myself a few weeks back.  And, finding no legitimate excuse, I determined in my mind that it was time.  One of my "things" was to write a soldier and thank them for their service.  So that is what I did.  Last week I mailed out my letter, hopeful to hear back from someone, but prepared not to.  Messy writing and all, I did it, and it's out there.  I wonder who SGT Vincent Montoya will hand it to.  It doesn't really matter, I just hope it puts a smile on his or her face - if even just for a moment.

If you are at all interested in writing to "Any Soldier", I'd recommend beginning at this website:  follow the instructions and choose the route you'd like to take.  Your simple "thank you" could mean the world to a woman or man who may be far from home.

Also, you don't need to take a picture of yourself with zit cream under your lower lip, no make-up on, and greasy hair as proof for your blog.  So, double bonus for you!


BeeKay said...

Whoa, did you present some of your letters from soldiers in elementary school by any chance? I suddenly had a random memory of that happening in class. (Or I made it up.)

Heidi said...

I totally did!!