Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guest Post: Tracy Faul ~ Support Our Troops!

Last month, I saw my friend Tracy Faul talking about a letter she'd received from her husband who had just deployed, asking for things he needed or wanted. As daughter and I have always done, I wanted to help with something. Even if just a "little" something.

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.

1. Lotion
2. Body wash for men
3. Q-tips
4. Beef jerky
5. Gummy candy
6. Baby wipes
7. Tooth paste
8. Hand sanitizer
9. Tissues
10. Starburst
11. Slim Jim
12. Shampoo
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.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post Tracy. I know that when I enlisted I was a little older than a lot of the other others who were joining up and I would hear them talk and always wanted to tell them that they were putting their lives on the line and they had to be a little smarter about things. I'm so thankful for soldiers like your husband who go in to help, to be the eyes for the younger soldiers. I know that the separation must be hard and I appreciate you taking the time to write this post to tell others how they can support our troops, whether or not they support the war.

    ((((hugz to you, your family and kids))))

    Happy Early Memorial Day Tracy, because you as a spouse are sacrificing just like your husband.

    Hoorah!

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  2. Thanks, Vicktor, for your kind words! And Amara, thanks so much for allowing me to do this.

    It's really hard, and there are times when I seriously doubt whether I can keep coping through this deployment (our third). I didn't marry into this life, and I wasn't born into, and the learning curve is... more a zigzag than a curve, honestly.

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    1. I can only distantly understand that. I was born into a military family, always knew that I'd enlist at some point in my life. I figured I'd marry a man in the Army or a man who understood the sacrifice he'd be making, have kids and then die in the service. Life is a very fickle creature and often tosses curve balls or "zigzags" our way in order for us to be stretched and rise to the highest, strongest, wisest versions of ourselves.

      I am sure that it's hard. I had to watch my friend Jamie struggle to get through things as his partner, Jerome (my best friend), get deployed time and time again. Jerome enlisted back in '98 and he and Jamie have been together since '99. Jerome just came home not too long ago (Christmas '11) and was told that he was only home for six-eight months and then he'd be sent overseas for three years. With the repeal of DADT he can finally take his partner with him. I hated that Jamie had to suffer not only as the spouse of a servicemember but also as the gay partner of a servicemember during DADT.

      Whenever I talked to him he always said that spouses of military personnel should get medals and ranks just for sticking with their partners and spouses through the whole thing.

      I agree.

      I wish that I had some insightful words to help you get through this. Some sage wisdom to get you through this deployment, but all I can really say is that I'm here if you need to talk. You are not alone in this. And as much as you hate it, your husband is hating it as well. I can also share this from the email that Jamie sent me when Jerome was deployed right after the towers fell in '01:

      There are some battles that I have to fight on my own. Some journeys that I have to walk alone. There are some wounds that take time to heal and it sucks when those around me have to watch me bleed and pray for the best, but this is one of those wars, one of those battles that I can get through just because there are people behind me rooting me on and there are those at the finish line telling me that I can get through it

      I hope that helps.

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    2. I think the learning curve would have been so much less difficult if I had started it when Steve and I first met back when I was 20, some dozen years ago. But having already settled into a "normal" life together and having two of the three kids before the Army even really came into my life... I just wasn't prepared for what I've come to think of as the Army Wife Code of Silence (which is really really NOT my style.)

      I keep hoping to see men -- besides the ones in uniform -- at FRG meetings (Heavy armor -- ALL our soldiers are men) but there never are. And I have to admit my heart hurt when, in one of the predeployment meetings, they went over the notification system for death/serious illness/injury and, basically, said that if you're not married to the soldier or connected by blood, you're SOL on the notification front. The repeal of DADT is a good thing -- one of my husband's friends from a former unit has come out, not that they didn't all already know -- but it's just not enough. Blood relationships should not win out over the personal wishes of the soldier; especially as dysfunctional as we all know families can be.

      And, yeah, your friend Jamie's right. Some battles we fight alone, even when theoretically we're not. The spouses I've met are all either very young and new at EVERYTHING or they're military brats themselves, and when I don't *understand* something they just give me this blank look, because it never occurs to them to question anything, which really? If they were books, I'd SO be wallbanging... (Also, it is SO TEMPTING to take my paper copy of The Soldier and the State Trooper to a meeting & make sure it's prominently on the table & see how they react. They're so tightly wound...)

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  3. Hi Tracy! Great post! Sometimes we all need a reminder like this. Thanks for letting us know about these organizations and the list of items needed.

    My mom and I gathered up dvd's, games, snack and hygiene items this past Christmas and dropped them off at our local police department. They were fulfilling a request from a group of soldiers that were in an isolated area and were unable to get a lot of these things. I really enjoyed doing it. Made me feel like maybe I could make things a little bit easier for these soldiers who were making so many sacrifices for us.

    My father-in-law is a retired Lt. Col. in the Air Force. He was a B-52 pilot and was gone during a lot of my husband's childhood. It was up to his mom to raise the kids and take care of everything at home. So I can only imagine what you are going through. I'm sure it gets very hard at times.Tell your husband we thank him for his service and pray for his safe return.

    We should all support our troops. Doesn't matter if you agree with what they are fighting for. These men and women are putting their lives on the line for us. We should also support their families in any way we can. Take care Tracy. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! It seems like the guys (and gals, too) mostly only get thought of at Christmas, when organizations do a big drive, but they're always always needing stuff. I've heard from friends that they like to organize groups like Boy/Girl Scout troops, church youth groups, or just groups of coworkers to put together care packages to send as part of a community service project.

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