Friday, November 2, 2007

The Value Of A Letter...

Butterfly Wife has written over 500 cards and letters and it reminded me of a post I originally did on a bulletin board before I ever became a blogger. I thought that Butterfly Wife and everyone else might like to see one serviceman's feelings on the subject.

A couple of years ago while working with a group of ladies to send care packages and letters to a marine platoon that we had adopted, I asked my husband to put to paper the contents of a conversation we had about the value of a letter to a deployed service member.

Anyone who has read The Lemon Stand knows my husband has a very quirky sense of humor. There are, however, a few things he is serious about. When his serious streak does appear, I listen because he always puts into words what I could never describe.


At 41, after serving an entire adult life in uniform, I hope I can offer some thoughts.

Mail, few things bring home closer than mail. Few things are more important. Even in the instantly gratified world we live in, the feeling of getting mail is indescribable. I can recall the feeling of at the end of the day, walking the mile or so to the MWR tent to check the mail list (in the Air Force the mail clerks would post a handwritten list of who had mail to save the questions), and the gloom that resulted from having no letter form my family. I remember the day I got 27 cards from my daughters, most containing only one word, but there were 27 of them. They weren’t big cards, all hand made, but they were for me, and there were 27 of them.

Because it’s not really a letter, you’re sending. It’s a taste of home, a reminder that someone knows your there, and a distraction from the endless routine. Getting a package of candy from a stranger is a strange wonderful feeling that can pick you up by the boot straps at a time when you need it most. Remember, it’s not the bombs or bullets that are the greatest danger, its stress and depression.

So what to send? A card, a letter, a picture of something other than sand. It doesn’t have to be big, small is okay, although contents you can eat are a plus. A book to read and pass on, home made cookies. I could go on for hours on a fruitcake I got in Korea (thanks Mom).

Movies are great also. In short anything sent is great, just make it personal.

While I’m not a Marine or soldier and take a lot of ribbing for being a wingnut, I was “down range” hauling explosives over the highways in decrepit trucks wearing less than perfect body armor. And I would never miss mail call.

And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden