Monday, September 11, 2006

What it means to me...

This is an essay I submitted in a contest for Soldiers' Angels. I didn't win the grand prize, but I did win one of 10 first-place prizes -- a 200-until prepaid calling card to be sent to my Soldiers' Angel "daughter" (who's older than me, haha) in Afghanistan, woohoo!!!! :) Yay! :) Anyway, wanted to share this with you all.... it's actually an updated variation of something I wrote long ago -- I may have even posted it here last year, haha -- but the new, improved, adn current verion is below. Hopefully, it will motivate people to get involved - and stay involved. :) HOOAH!

What it Means to me to Support our Troops

I've been active in “adopting” deployed Soldiers (and Marines, and Air Force, and Sailors) for approximately six years through various organizations (and most recently, via Soldiers’ Angels). I have to tell you that it is a WONDERFUL, deeply touching, and life-changing experience! It is hard to describe the feelings that go along with supporting a Soldier ~ the personal satisfaction of doing something for someone else, the bond you form with your "son" or "daughter" (even when you never hear from them, you still get amazingly attached!), a deeper appreciation of the sacrifice so many make on our behalf, and yes, even awful fear and *much* "maternal" worry as we listen to the news and hear of "our" Soldiers being in harm's way during this time of war. We do not just merely send letters ~ we give our hearts and souls to serving these brave men and women who so courageously serve us. We cry with each other when we hear of Soldiers being wounded, or worse yet, killed while serving our country… while serving us. We encourage each other and comfort each other when we fear for "our" Soldier's safety, holding each other up through those long, dark hours of “not knowing” if our Soldier is all right. Soldiers’ Angels is more than just a volunteer organization ~ it is a close-knit "family" with a huge and loving heart.

During my years of adopting troops (which began well before 9/11/01 ever happened), I have had the honor of supporting several Soldiers: First, before the war, two Soldiers in Kosovo, followed by (after the war) several in Iraq and Afghanistan. My first adopted Soldier in Iraq was adopted by our family right before the war began ~ I had the incredible privilege of supporting a 1 Lt. with the 3rd Infantry, 3rd Division. This was back during the “Shock & Awe” days… I watched the “Shock & Awe” attack on TV, and thought of my adopted “baby” over there right in the middle of it all…. and believe me, I didn’t sleep a wink for worry about my “son” and his unit. I about collapsed from relief when I heard they were going home! I never heard a word from him before, during or after his deployment, but I still feel honored to have had a small part in his world, hopefully bringing a bit of joy into a dark place.

Since that time, I have continued to adopt Soldiers and Marines, Airmen/women and Sailors. Of late, I have been requesting specifically to be assigned troops who are serving in high-combat areas. My heart has been broken as I hear of fallen hero after fallen hero… and I want to do SOMETHING to provide a bit of extra encouragement and TLC to those who are out there on the front lines…literally. I cannot fight ~ but I can support and encourage those heroes who DO, at least in the small way I can. It’s not much, but I can assure you…my little letters and cards are not half-hearted… they are filled to overflowing with love and gratitude and good ole American pride! I wish I could do so much more… but what I can do, I do, to the best of my ability.

Supporting Soldiers and Marines in the middle of the war makes the whole thing even more real and personal in a profound way. It’s not just faceless names on the news… those are MY guys and MY gals out there… they’re talking about MY TROOPS on the news!!! Is it hard on my nerves? You better believe it!!! I constantly watch the news and check the D.O.D. “Fallen Warriors” list, trying to make sure all my “kids” are OK. How many nights have I lost sleep, worrying, praying and even crying a time or two (or three, or four) for my “kids?” But how could I NOT support these heroes?? My adopted Soldiers - and thousands more - are risking their lives to keep our nation safe and free. Sending letters and sharing news of home with a Hero so far away is such a tiny thing ~ yet it makes an incredible difference to these guys and gals!

Once in a very great while, we will get a response from one of our Heroes. And always, without fail, it reinforces my resolve to continue doing everything in my power to “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” It is amazing the difference something as simple as a letter can make! Imagine being surrounded by the horrors of war and death and fear and rage…imagine working 16, 20 or more hours a day, every day, far away from home and family… missing holidays and other important events… and the only tangible contact you have with home is whatever comes in the mail.

Yes, it’s THAT important.

The troops ~ our heroes ~ need all the love and support and encouragement they can get!!! And that is why it is literally my life’s mission to make certain that they know – really know – that we back home have not forgotten them, will not forget them, appreciate them, and are so, so very proud of them. Our troops live in my heart and are in my prayers always.


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