For the longest time, I would see all the yellow “support our troops” signs in our neighborhood, and bitch about them First I was annoyed because the HOA set them up in front of everyone’s houses without bothering to ask, and then I was angry because really, I don’t think people are sporting those signs because they particularly care, but because everyone else is. Those t-shirts that say “I support whatever’s trendy” are more accurate than most of us care to admit. (They’re also funny, and I want one, but that’s beside the point.)
Around Halloween, I took the sign I’d ripped out of the lawn back out of the dusty spiderweb-infested back corner of the garage and put it back out, not because I felt like our lawn was somehow naked or incomplete, but because I realized I actually know real people who are in the military, even if I only know most of them via blog, and I support them, even if I might disagree with their views. They’re the human face for me. They’re the people who make it real.
So, last night, I was surfing websites and watching the tivo’d American Girl movie about Molly and WWII, and found blogs talking about sending Christmas cards to soldiers overseas, and I was reminded by the letters my grandparents had written back and forth, when he was overseas during that generation’s war. His always ended with a plea for another letter.
And I thought about how much I love getting mail – even now. I mean, email’s great, but snailmail is SPECIAL. It’s more real somehow.
So this morning, I picked a site I liked – Soldier’s Angels, and adopted a soldier. I gave them my name and contact info. They gave me the name and APO address of a woman currently in Iraq. The deal is to send a letter a week, and a small parcel or two once or twice a month, both things I can easily do, and will cost me less than what I generally spend on designer coffee in a similar length of time. My intro letter has already been sent (I *just* made today’s mail pickup) and there’s a goody basket on its way. Am I a sucker for doing this? Maybe. Do I agree that the other women and men who do this are angels, as they call themselves? Well, there are many definitions of angel. So, I guess I can accept the term, in a sense roughly akin to the theatrical backer usage, because I don’t think there’s anything particularly angelic about reaching out in basic human kindness. I mean, we all live here together, we have a responsibility to give back in whatever way is individually appropriate.
And the thing is, whatever my feelings are about the war – this war, any war – (and I’m a California liberal, so you can pretty much guess), the men and women who are actually fighting it are not at fault. They’re doing jobs I wouldn’t consider doing, and risking life and limb to do it. And that deserves respect.
After all, it’s Christmas.
And even just being on a business trip is rough enough at Christmas.
So really, I decided to do it for him, for them. For their stories of being under blackout conditions in Panama, for my grandmother’s endless repetitions of the tale of her return by (commandeered) cruise ship to the US, and the zig-zag course it had to sail, for their 50 years of marriage, and for the man who, years later, while watching CNN’s coverage of Desert Storm, took out a globe and explained to her exactly how that part of the world related to the parts she knew, her beloved Italy, her even more beloved America, with loving patience and endless repetition.
And I hear his words in my head right now, a phrase from one of my grandfather’s letters to my grandmother: “You looked like an angel, my angel.”