Getting Started Off…
Growing up, with a veteran grandfather and an uncle in the Air Force, I was taught to appreciate and respect the efforts of our soldiers fighting to protect our freedom, as well as the rights of others. I really wanted to show my support for what our military men and women are doing, but at first, I really wasn’t sure what I could do. I didn’t exactly have much in the way of money to put towards buying things to fill a care-package, much less pay the postage to mail one! Then I heard about sending cards and letters to service men and women, and decided to give it a try. However, it proved to be a little more difficult to track down an address to mail letters to, than I’d originally expected it would be.
During my searching, I found a website called anysoldier.com where I was able to select a unit based upon a write-up by the unit’s “spokesperson” and get an address for mailing stuff to. After finding one where soldiers were looking for people interested in being pen pals with them, I requested the address and set to work on writing a letter. At first, it was somewhat awkward and slow-going, since I really wasn’t sure what to write to someone in that position. Not to mention I didn’t even know the person at all, so I couldn’t exactly talk about mutual interests yet. After writing and rewriting several times over, I managed to get something written up that I deemed worthy of mailing, and I sent it out on March 28th of this year.
Writing Back and Forth…
I didn’t hear back from the letter I sent until May 11th, when I had just about given up all hope of actually hearing back from anyone in regards to it. When I got an email asking me if I’d received a letter of response to mine, I was so surprised! Unfortunately, till this very day, I still have never gotten the letter he sent me.
Well, after that first initial email, we began writing emails back and forth regularly. Nothing extremely serious in any way, just how any pair of friends might talk online –laughing at one another and asking questions so we knew more about each other. However, after fairly regular notes back and forth, I stopped hearing from him for a few days -which seemed quite a bit longer while I was living through them than while looking back now.
At first I didn’t view the sudden silence as really any big deal. After all, he was fighting a war. He was bound to get busy at times, so the first day slipped by with worry-free disappointment. The next day was about the same, but as it came to a close, I began to have a sinking feeling. I didn’t know how his, Mark’s*, access to the Internet worked, so I had no idea how often he was able to check and reply to email. However, it seemed strange he’d been consistently replying promptly only to suddenly stop like he had. By the third night I was worried, and decided to look for a list of names of soldiers who had recently died in the country which he was stationed in. To my horror, around the day after I’d last talked to Mark, a soldier with the exact same name, minus his middle initial which was not included, was listed as having died.
I knew his name was by no means uncommon, and it was quite possible it was a different Mark Smith, but the thought that someone I had been laughing and joking with only days before could be dead…it was one of the scariest moments of my life.
A Night in Their Shoes…
That night, as I worried about “my” soldier, the war suddenly became very up-close and personal for me. It wasn’t far off affecting a whole bunch of random people I didn’t know. It was right there, involving my friends and people I cared about. That night, I spent several hours in the shoes of the families and friends of our soldiers. For the briefest of moments, I got to experience a tiny bit of what it’s like to not know if someone you cared about it lying dead somewhere, or just exhausted and crashed on a cot instead. For one night, I prayed, hoped, and cried like I never had before, asking God to be with him and to let him be alive. Meanwhile, as I waited, hoping he would send me an email so I’d know he was alright, I began praying for all of the families of those I’d seen listed as having died and asking others to pray with me. That night, my heart truly opened up and went out to the families of our soldiers. Yes, our soldiers are the ones out on the battlefields fighting the physical wars every day. However, it’s their families and friends they leave behind who are forced to face the emotional battles and struggles those courageous men and women leave behind them. The families and friends who have to live each day wondering if that Mark Smith or Josh Stevens was their Mark Smith or Josh Stevens, and find out how to go on with their lives when it is their loved one who paid the ultimate price for them.
After my fair share of suspense and worry I finally broke down and sent him an email requesting he reply in some way if he got the email. My hands were shaking as I clicked send, and it was all I could do to wait for the reply. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before he responded back letting me know he was alright, and from there, the jokes about needing to change his name rolled, and everything was okay. Still, the lesson I learned about what those families go through will stick with me for forever.
Writing Letters to Troops
Would you like to show your support of our men and women in arms? If so, you can! Just visit one of the following addresses. You can either select a branch of the armed forces you wish to write to, or, you can join adoptaplatoon and get your choice of a number of soldiers assigned to you for your choice of support type:
~anysoldier.com ~anyairman.com ~anysailor.com
~anymarine.com ~anycoastguard.com ~ adoptaplatoon.org
I personally went through anymarine.com where I clicked the “Where to Send” button in the banner at the top of the page. On the new page that appears after selecting that, scroll down to around the bottom of the page and look for the “Click HERE to Search” link. On the search page you can effectively narrow down your search options considerably by selecting a certain US state for the unit to be from, a certain location to which they were deployed, picking the military branch once again, if you want female soldiers to be in the unit, or simply by searching for any units that specifically mentioned letters in their posting on the site. From there, you should get a list of the different units which match your description, and then it’s the fun part –picking one!
The numbers for men/women given for each unit stands for the number of soldiers of each gender that the soldier who wrote the posting believes they can get to with any items that are sent. So keep that in mind if you decide you want to send a care-pack as well as a letter. Look at how many guys there’ll be compared to girls. If you send a whole box full of Olay facial creams, you should probably mail it to a unit with 50 girls and 150 guys rather than one with 30 guys and only 2 girls. In fact, my suggestion for if you are sending a care-package is to send a mixed bunch. Toss in a few guy items, but also toss in a few girl items as well. Or, if you can afford the shipping, mail a guys’ box and a girls’ box. Since you ship the items to an address within the United States, you don’t have to pay for international shipping on the boxes, so the price of shipping wouldn’t be quite as bad as people might initially assume when thinking of sending things to troops overseas. Another quick tip is that if you particularly want to write to a girl, you can label your letter or package: “ATTN: Any Female______” This way, if for any reason you’re not comfortable with having a male soldier for a penpal, your letter will be given to one of the girls, and you should be able to write back and forth with another girl.
If you have any questions, email me! email@example.com and I’ll try to answer them!
Photo Property of 'Lilies Among Thorns Magazine'. Taken by Alyssa Dannettel.