War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stuart Mill
Last Sunday, my new church, Morning Star Community Church, handed out boxes to be filled and sent to Oregon National Guard troops currently serving in Iraq. The project, called Love Boxes for our Troops, grew out of the experience of one member who volunteered to do a second tour in Iraq back in 2005. What started out as one box mailed to a friend has turned into thousands of boxes in the past couple of years. The concept is not unique to Morning Star, however, and can be seen in similar efforts like Operation Shoebox.
My family picked up five boxes Sunday, one for each of us. Before deciding which items from the suggested list to include in the box, I asked my good friend TitansFan his opinion. Andrew has “been there/done that.” He’s served in the Persian Gulf and been in a position to receive boxes like this before. I asked him, “when you were there, what did you want to see in these things?” He suggested that DVD’s were nice, but stressed AT&T prepaid phone cards, which the troops can use to call family back home.
It’s hard to imagine how much a simple phone call can mean to these overworked, and VASTLY underpaid men and women (I’ll get on that soapbox someday soon). So each box included a phone card. We also sent some Kleenex, body wash, toothbrush-paste-mouthwash, Tylenol and Aleve, writing paper and envelopes, bubble gum, snack cakes, peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, hand sanitizer, playing cards, trail mix, a magazine and a small jar of locally made jelly (the Willamette Valley is a big berry growing area). My compassionate and artistic daughter also added a hand drawn thank you note to each box!
Let me encourage you to participate in an effort like this near where you live. If there are no organized efforts near you, consider starting one or donate to an existing one, like this one, sponsored by The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
These brave young men and women are getting paid less to get shot at than I used to make as a bank clerk. You might even go one step further. Look around. Chances are you know someone who has a family member deployed, and you could be more help to them than you might guess. Mow their yard. Rake some leaves. Clean their gutters Change their oil. Offer to sit with the kids for a few hours.
Many people today are drawing comparisons between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. The surest way to make Iraq another Vietnam is:
A. Pull everyone out immediately. Send the choppers in to fly people off the Embassy roof, and leave our “friends” to fend for themselves.
B. Take your opposition to the war and the administration out on the grunts, who are simply doing the job they were told to do, and sacrificing, at a minimum, time with their families, to do so. That makes as much sense as heckling the meter reader because you don’t like the mayor.
But then again, if we have learned one thing from history, it is that people rarely learn from history.
What you can learn is how to do something simple that cost you a little but can mean more than you can imagine to someone doing a tough job over there, so we don’t have to do it over here.
"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf" - George Orwell
UPDATE: We have received the following reply one of the soldiers!!
Happy Thanksgiving Spencer family, I’m 1SG Michael Amen of the 224 Engineer Company. I’m sending a note to let you know we have received the care package you sent. You and many like you have held our Soldiers in your prayers, and for that I want to say thank you. Your dedication to this nation and the Soldiers who serve is inspiring. On behalf of the Commander and Soldiers of the 224 Engineer Company I want to express our appreciation. I have attached a photo depicting our company sign, we are currently assigned to Balad Air Base, just north of Baghdad.
1SG Michael F Amen