A Letter of Thanks to All of You Who Have "Adopted" A Soldier
I am a soldier deployed to central Afghanistan and I wanted to tell you how very much your support means to all of us fighting over here. I know that you write out of the goodness of your heart, many of you writing countless letters, which often go unanswered. You write and mail packages and pray for these fine young soldiers, the best our country has to offer, often in harm's way each and every day. I know that it might get a bit discouraging sometimes, sending letters and emails and packages into the "big black hole of Afghanistan and Iraq" and you must wonder sometimes if you are making a difference. Well that is why I am writing this...to tell you that you are!
Our soldiers... most importantly, YOUR soldiers, are doing unbelievably stressful and dangerous work. The average soldier in my Brigade lives and works out of a remote Combat Outpost. This can sometimes mean sleeping in the dirt, sleeping when they can in between incoming rocket and mortar attacks. They normally go weeks without a shower (thank goodness for baby wipes!), eat cold chow, with few phones or Internet being available. We are in the midst of the "summer fighting season" which means that we are engaged in numerous firefights and IED strikes every single day.
When you go "outside" the wire you are always tense and high-strung, searching for that command wire of an IED, meeting village elders as you immerse yourself in a totally foreign culture that you neither fully understand or are part of, and are often viewed with deep suspicion and frowns. There are indeed rewarding moments where you smile; children in particular have the unique ability to bring a smile to the face of the gruffest soldier, but you never let down your guard. When your armored security vehicle rolls back through the relative safety of the gate after days on patrol where you perhaps carried a 100 pound pack on a mountain at 10,000 feet it is sometimes all you can do to stumble to your sleeping bag for some much-needed rest.
So where do you come in? You, quite simply, are there to greet us with love and support when we stumble back through the gate.
Mail has always been cherished by soldiers in a war zone for as long as there has been the written word. It's hard to describe what it's like when those magical words of, "hey, the mail is in!" is excitedly passed from soldier to soldier. The atmosphere instantly lightens and smiles appear on the tired faces of soldiers who look 10 years older than their age. The closest I can describe it as is that it's akin to Christmas morning. The toughest soldier takes his box or letter from a loved one or a Soldiers' Angel and does his best not to grin like a 10-year-old getting that new bike from Santa, retreating to someplace quiet to open his mail.
That's an unspoken rule for soldiers.... unless 10,000 Taliban are about to storm the gates or a nuclear bomb is about to vaporize the entire countryside, you DON'T disturb a soldier when he or she is opening up their mail! It may be behind the guard tower or in their sleeping bag by the light of a red-lens flashlight, but a soldier opening his mail is a very intimate and private moment, one to be cherished.
What do you all bring to us over here? A slice of home. You may think that you don't have much to offer in your letters that often go unanswered. You may feel you are rambling on about the weather or about how you find cemeteries a peaceful place or who just won "American Idol." But to a soldier in a combat zone? That is life. That is normalcy. That is what we have to look forward to when our duty here is done. When you write these letters, even though they may go unanswered, you need to know that every letter that you seal and put into the mailbox will cause a tremendous smile on the other end.
On behalf of all of us soldiers over here I want to thank you for what you do. With the lack of Internet access, limited time, and plain old exhaustion, most of your letters and emails often go unanswered. Please know, however, that they are deeply appreciated. You are doing your own part in all of this... you are showing your support. And that is what a soldier needs... knowing that he is not forgotten, that his efforts are appreciated, and that many, many people back home are thinking about and praying for them.
Thank you so very much for what you do.
We currently have over 500 deployed service members waiting for adoption. But you don't have to "adopt", you can join one of our many teams or just write a letter...
Visit the SA website for information.
Update: Oh, will be posting some pics from Steve soon... of the Afghan kids and others for whom you have sent clothing, school supplies, etc.