Although I intend most of my blogging to center Constitutional themes, inevitably occasion will impress me to offer up a thought or two with a military theme. This entry is one of those exceptions.
After I posted the first entry to my diary, Redstate member Kenny Solomon posted a comment thanking me for my ongoing service and commitment. Quite often, fellow citizens from all over the country who don’t know me thank me for my service after discovering I serve in the military. Candidly, this embarrasses me. I don’t serve for honor or recognition or expect any thanks for what I do, and I admit that I don’t handle compliments well either. Nonetheless, the tremendous outpouring of support and appreciation directed towards service members by grateful compatriots is deeply touching and I dedicate this post to highlight a few personal examples and reciprocate a most heartfelt thanks to all who go out of their way to extend these sentiments.
The first time a perfect stranger ever thanked me for my service was on September 14, 2001. I had been on active duty for just over six years. My family was on vacation in California and September 11 still dominated our thoughts. President Bush had declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance and at noontime, Disneyland ceased all activity to observe a moment of silence. I didn’t know exactly what the implications of the attack meant for the military, but I knew there would be some. Evidently, I was not the only one; later that day, a mother and daughter thanked me sincerely for my service.
This experience is now common. Most of my military brethren report a similar trend. However, the surge of support has not just been limited to expressions of gratitude.
Sometime during my first week or two in Iraq, a couple of my Soldiers came into the shop, each carrying a US Postal Service Flat Rate Box (O-FRB1). I marveled that their families were so quick to send them care packages. It turned out that the packages were from one of the many, many organizations sending care packages to troops. Over the course of my tour in Iraq I saw hundreds and hundreds of these care packages distributed. I never had to buy toiletries by virtue of the abundance available from care packages. I can’t think of anything we went without. These packages contained everything imaginable: candy, chocolate, Twinkies, Oreos, chips, dips, cookies, crackers, summer sausages, snacks, knives, scarves, gloves, personal hygiene items, games, books, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, thank you letters…you name it, they sent it!
I regret that I didn’t write down all of the organizations, churches, schools, businesses, and individuals from which I saw a package or letter flow through. The list would be very long if I had. I would like to be able to thank each one by name. There were various Any-Soldier and Adopt-a-Soldier type organizations. Many church groups, community organizations, and schools also contributed. I read several books sent over by knife maker A.G. Russell. His boxes also contained pocket-sized copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution along with an assortment of products (not cheap) from his own business. A box arrived once that was full of handmade scarves. I will always cherish the one made by Marilyn A. Borros of Lakewood, Ohio that I drew from the box.
Finally, let me highlight the U.S.O. Besides sending care packages and entertainers to Iraq, they organized one of the most touching experiences of my life at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. After deplaning, we walked through a long gauntlet of cheering airport workers and passengers on our way to customs. Departing customs towards the buses that would take us to another terminal, we walked through an even longer, more densely packed gauntlet of boy scouts, cub scouts, girl scouts, brownies, athletic teams, veterans, and many other locals. Applause thundered, cheers and thank-yous rang out, cameras flashed, flags waved, hands clapped our backs and shoulders, hands reached out to shake ours, gifts were pushed at us, personal cell phones were offered to make calls home, welcome back and thank-you banners were everywhere. It was all I could do to maintain my composure and I lost it as soon as I was on the bus. I choke up whenever I think of it. A young Soldier exclaim as he walked onto the bus behind me, “I feel like a rock-star! This makes it all worthwhile.”
You citizens who extend your support to the troops have done more to support the war effort than you probably realize. Some people wonder why the Army consistently meets its recruiting goals despite long and multiple deployments – I don’t.
So to all who reach out and support us service members in your various ways, please accept my deepest gratitude and know that you’re efforts are not unnoticed and make a huge difference.