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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

With Respect and Gratitude - a belated Veterans' Day ramble

Well, I missed the boat on blogging something on Veterans' Day. I'm somewhat annoyed with myself about that, but work has been incredibly busy and life happens.

Still, Sunday was roughly the third anniversary of my joining Soldiers' Angels. It seems longer ago, but it was just before Veterans' Day 2004 when Hugh Hewitt directed his blog readers to this great organization as a way to show support and express thanks to our veterans.

Why do I think it's so great? I think it's because Soldiers' Angels is one of those organizations that allows you to contribute with a personal touch. I can safely say that while my care packages occasionally have been similar, they are always tailored to whoever is on the receiving end... and are regularly impacted by what I happen to see as I walked through a card shop or down the grocery store aisle. They also contain just a little bit of me.

That last part is important to me because I want our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to know that I - Jane Citizen - appreciate their service. Soldiers' Angels allows me to make clear that that message of thanks comes straight from me to them. To me it's the difference between a casual wave and a gentle squeeze on the arm. The former seems trite, the latter is motivated by heartfelt respect and a wish and a prayer for their safe return.

Anyway, I can't remember exactly what prompted my search for a new way to say "thank you", but I do remember that it was a fairly strong compulsion. I needed to say thanks, and I needed to do more than make a monetary donation.

I knew I'd found something special when I received an email from a young Marine Lance Corporal, my first adoptee. He wrote an email to say thanks for whatever I'd crammed in that first box -- snacks, I think, and a Thanksgiving card. I still have that email. Absolutely tickled to have heard back from him (Angels know that they may never hear from an adoptee for a variety of reasons, including that our adoptees are, well, fighting a WAR...), I responded with questions about what he'd like to receive, and got a big "NO MORE!" on toilet paper and a "yes please" for chocolate chip cookies. Turned out that the choc chip cookies got in the mail just before his unit went on “mail stop” for a return to the US in early February 2005. Cookies were received in good time and summarily demolished by he and his buddies. After getting over my pout at being unable to send any further packages, I continued to send an occasional email message (and requested a new adoptee!). I went on a business trip to NYC in mid December and on a whim took several picture-phone photos of NYC at Christmas. I wrote an email to my LCpl and attached the photos. I got a reply rather quickly as unbeknown to me, my LCpl had always wanted to visit NYC at the holiday time. The photos, despite their low resolution, provided a snapshot of a special place and a little bit of home at a special time of year.

In return, and unprompted, I received a fantastic photo of a pair of combat boots catching the rays of an Iraqi sunset, a snapshot of a Christmas tree that had been set up in his barracks, a photo of he and his buddy, and a photo of my LCpl and his beautiful wife.

Why highlight that reply? Because I think it demonstrates how “adopting” a soldier, sailor, airman or marine during their deployment can be a special way to show support. It might seem inadequate except that there are 10s of thousands of individuals making contact in exactly the same way. The effect is a very personal “thank you” going out to a large number of our newest veterans. They deserve nothing less.

If that wasn’t enough, I realized this year that this highly visible support to current active duty service members is prompting older veterans, whether it be from Vietnam, Korea, WWII or any of the actions in between, to talk about their experiences. Which is, in turn, letting me know about veterans among us who I had had no idea had served. Because they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Until now.

So thanks to Patti Patton-Bader for creating a way for us to show our support.

But most importantly, thanks to you, our veterans, for answering the call, for serving regardless of the sacrifices required, for standing up for the liberties we hold so dear.

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