A letter from home, a letter from anyone, even "junk" mail (to a point) can mean so much when one is away from home -- this, whether it's a few hundred miles or a dozen time-zones. I know... I remember. Even though it was over 36 years ago, memories of both the good mail-calls and the I-did-not-get-anything not-so-good mail calls are still with me. Back then it was letters and books and magazines and newspapers and packages -- especially care-packages -- even those that were not addressed to you. Today, to that you can add email and blog entries, although sending packages must meet more stringent requirements today than three decades ago.
Letters from the Troops
Garry Trudeau, creator of the comic strip "Doonesbury," is providing us with a continually updated view of the "Global War on Terror" ("GWOT") by providing those "in-country" a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us from his "The Sandbox" (
), a new addition to his Doonesbury Web site (
). As he explains, "Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog (military web log), featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship, but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment." Feel like it, and you can leave your comments too.
What the Mail They Receive Means To Them
As a recent in-country poster wrote, "When you're in Iraq, mail becomes paramount. No longer do you grab the stuff in your mailbox with the monotony that consumes after years and years of junk mail and coupons you'll never use. The walk to the mailbox is not a mechanical part of your day anymore. No more is your mail a constant trickle of companies reminding you that you owe them money. Mail becomes a miniature Christmas, a small token or package or gift from a magical land far away that now seems kind of fuzzy in your memory, like Santa and his reindeer through the glass of a child's globe which has just been shaken and presents you with a snowy winter-scape. A quickening of the spirit occurs when you receive a letter or package from your friends and family back in the United States. It must be how one would feel receiving a message in a bottle after being shipwrecked on an island for years. This simile may be a stretch, but you get my drift. Whether you are a true patriot, and you bleed red, white, and blue, or you are simply here because duty came knocking at your door, and you have some honor and some pride in what you do, it feels really good to receive thoughts and prayers from all of you back home."
Getting a Package To Them
The USPS has a program for military family and friends to supply you with packaging materials to send packages overseas. If you call 1-800-610-8734 and follow through the voice mail maze to get to a human (Choose your language - 1 is English, 2 is Spanish; Choose option 1 - it states it is for Express Mail, Priority Mail or Global Express Guaranteed products), you can ask them for the "military pack" (CARE KIT 04) and they will send you boxes, tape, packaging materials and labels at no charge. USPS also has a website that will provide you with guidelines on packing, addressing, mailing restrictions, and shipping items to US Troops (
). This site also has information on other resources for Troops and their families -- contact organizations for information and support services -- and other ways to support our Troops -- from sending gifts to donating blood.
A Final Thought
As they also wrote: "Whoever you are, and regardless of your political interests, or your feelings about the military or war or violence or our Commander in Chief, or Iraq, or Muslims, or the current stock market trends, we appreciate your support. Regardless of your favorite color, your skin color, the type of car you drive, your age, the college you went to, your lack of education, or your bad attitude towards teenagers and video games, we still thank you. Because we are you. We are the American people, temporarily displaced for a spell in the Middle East. We exemplify virtually every race, class, profession, and opinion that you do over there across the pond. We're just fighting right now, that's all. We've been pulled away from "normal" life to serve our country as millions have done for America in past conflicts. Some of us believe in the political machines that nudge entire nations into war, and some of us just believe in ourselves and each other and doing the duty we raised our hand and swore to do."
Amen brother -- I only wish I could do more to help...
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt
p.s. well, it was
Friday the 13th
-- and it might have been a bit of
-- but everything seems back to normal now