I got to thinking about it, and wondered... how many people actually /know/ how to help support the troops, how to maybe send things they might need. I wanted to do a blog post with the list she'd shown me, but couldn't quite put together how to go about it all, soooooo, I invited Tracy over to do one as I knew she could do it better than I.
I'm glad I did. She put together a wonder post. Insightful, resourceful... it's perfect. Thank you Tracy. Welcome to mah Place darlin'. *hugs*
Support Our Troops!
You don’t necessarily need to support – by which I mean, agree with – the current conflicts in which our military troops are involved in order to be supportive of them. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most of the soldiers I know (to say nothing of their significant others, children, parents, siblings, friends, etc.) don’t believe in it. They’re not in it for Glory or Honor or Patriotism or whatever the watchword is these days; they’re doing it for much more mundane reasons: a steady (steadyish) paycheck, better benefits than they can get many other places (not that they’re that amazing), on-the-job training.
Some of them are even doing it for more esoteric reasons – until recently, the Army was actively recruiting older men, in their late 20s to early 30s, and making every effort to retain soldiers in that age range who were considering leaving the Army rather than making a career out of the military. Many of these men are going in, staying in, returning to military service because they have seen the devastation that loss of life causes, they have had their hearts broken when young men they have known and become family with lost their lives to a bomb or a sniper. They think, “With my experience, I may not have the reflexes of a younger man, but I can make better, smarter snap decisions. I can maybe see something they wouldn’t, make a connection they won’t. I can maybe save a young, promising life by being there instead.”
Hi, I’m Tracy (I’m found around the internet as tracykitn, as well.) Those older guys in the previous paragraph? My husband is one of them. He was in the Army for a few years straight out of high school; decided it wasn’t for him, then, after we met and started spawning, certain aspects of military life suddenly became *much* more appealing – stuff like the paycheck, the benefits. We knew from the outset that there would be long separations, that the pay and benefits wouldn’t be all that great, that he would be in danger. We thought about divorce rates and PTSD and all kinds of things before he joined back up. In the end, though, it was that one idea – “How many lives of younger men could I save, just by being there and being less starry-eyed, less convinced of my own immortality?” I couldn’t argue with that, and in a way, didn’t really want to. It’s a lot less amorphous a value than Honor or Glory, and hopefully comes with fewer medals. It seems like, too often, heroes are only rewarded when they’re dead.
But I digress…
What I really wanted to talk about today is the plight of morale, both overseas and at home. These young men and women who are putting their lives on the line, and sometimes sacrificing their all – we should absolutely honor their courage in doing that. They may not believe in the official WHY but they believe that they’re performing a necessary service. Someone has to do it, and it might as well be them; they have the drive and the training and most importantly the willpower.
Many of them, though, don’t have a support system at home – there are orphans, there are those whose parents are even worse off or have yet more children at home to support. These soldiers are single, or they’re married and trying to survive on an insufficient income, or they’re simply estranged from family and friends. It’s not unheard of for families and friends to drop contact with their soldiers on political grounds. In other words, many of these men and women are not receiving mail – no letters, no packages. Many companies or individuals won’t mail to military addresses (APO, FPO), so if a soldier has no one to send him things that he can’t purchase on his base, he may just have to do without, or go through the complication of finding a buddy with a family member who’s willing to buy it for him and ship it. In fact, my husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan, and while some of the FOBs (or Forward Operating Bases) are quite nice (one, apparently, even has a TGIFriday’s), many of them, like the one he’s stationed at, are much less so. He has said they’re requesting basic hygiene items like body wash and foot powder because there is nowhere to buy such stuff.
In the past, the Post Office and the Army would allow letters and care packages to be sent addressed “To Any Soldier” for delivery. However, they no longer do this. If you want to mail someone something, you absolutely must have a name. The most obvious solution, of course, is to ask friends, coworkers, and family members if anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who’s deployed, and then use your own personal grapevine to get an address to send stuff to.
However, there is another way!
There are many many organizations dedicated to providing morale support to soldiers; everything from care packages to phone cards to travel funds to pay for flights. It can be overwhelming choosing where to give, or you may prefer to give more personally than simply donating money. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorites:
www.redcross.org The Red Cross: There are so many ways to help – donations, volunteer efforts – which can directly impact military families. The Red Cross is directly responsible for contacting service members overseas whose families are experiencing an emergency; in many cases the soldier will ONLY be contacted if the notification comes through the Red Cross.
www.uso.org USO (United Service Organizations): Again, many ways to help. Among other things, the USO sells premade care packages and ships them to servicemembers in need. They also provide valuable support for families, particularly with the Sesame Street program which uses characters from the show to help children understand and cope with deployment.
www.booksforsoldiers.com Books for Soldiers is a forum where soldiers can request books, movies, games, pen pals, etc., and members stateside can fulfill those requests. You have to be a member to access addresses, and if you’re willing to fill out a notarized Official Volunteer application, you can gain access to those addresses that are blocked for reasons relating to OPSEC (or Operational Security).
www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts gently used cell phones and sells them to a recycling partner. The money raised is used to provide calling cards or other communications tools for servicemembers’ use.
www.soldiersangels.org Soldiers’ Angels allows you to “adopt” an individual soldier as a pen pal. The organization expects Angels to communicate weekly with their soldier and send a minimum of 1 or 2 care packages a month, so be sure you can meet the commitment before signing up!
Googling “Support Our Troops” comes up with lists of service organizations, and lists of lists of service organizations; one of my top resources is Military.com at http://www.military.com/spouse/content/military-life/military-resources/how-to-support-our-troops.html
Some other helpful info:
(This is an email I received from my husband detailing the kinds of things soldiers want)
OK, so I asked some of the guys what kinds of things they would like to receive from strangers.
2. Body wash for men
4. Beef jerky
5. Gummy candy
6. Baby wipes
7. Tooth paste
8. Hand sanitizer
11. Slim Jim
13. Used books (mainly action/adventure/combat) No girlie type books.
14. Magazines (guns, hunting/fishing, cars, motorcycles, exercise/fitness, Soldier Of Fortune)
15. Names/contact info for women who will perform sexual acts on cam (skype/yahoo)
16. White athletic ankle high socks of random mens’ sizes (no logos please)
17. No longer wanted/played X-Box 360 games
18. Chap Stick
19. Soft toilet paper (the TP provided is like sand paper)
20. Single serving powder drink mixes (lemonade, kool aid, iced tea, etc.)
21. Puzzle books (crossword/sudoku)
22. Sun screen (the higher protection the better)
23. Foot/baby powder
24. And of course, cookies
That’s what the guys would like. Now I understand that 1 or 2 items might not be available to some people, like the used X-Box games, but that’s ok. Everyone knows at least one or two sluts. Whether they know it or not.
One last thing: Don’t forget the families!
Please, if you know someone whose family member is deployed, don’t forget them! Many of them are far from their support systems, if they’re in a full-time military family, and may have trouble making friends, or simply not have had enough time yet. And families of mobilized Guard units may not have the built-in support system of being surrounded by others who are going through the same things they are. Just like any other difficult situation, be a good friend: be available for venting. Provide child or pet care, if you can. Make concrete offers of support (“I can bring you a casserole on Thursday” is a huge relief; “What can I do to help?” just means I have to think and make decisions about what things need doing and what part of my life I’m willing to let you in to) – anything from full meals to lawn care to picking up a gallon of milk at the store on your way home. Bring over a ridiculous movie and a bag of microwave popcorn. Whatever; just make sure we know we have someone we can count on to be there if needed.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring.