This was a FOB, or Forward Operating Base, in Afghanistan. This is Restrepo. Named for PFC Juan S. Restrepo, a medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who was killed in action on July 22, 2007. This little outpost was built out of the rock in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. That valley saw some of the heaviest fighting, hand-to-hand combat, and conflicts of the current war in Afghanistan. A couple of months ago, the U.S. Military pulled out.
But really gets me is that Restrepo is where people LIVED. Our fellow citizens. Our soldiers. I get it that war isn’t a carnival, and violence isn’t glamorous, and not all of us agree with everything going on right now. Still, these soldiers lived for months in dust holes, peeing in PVC pipes, eating MREs, burning their own poop. Much of it without the attention of anyone other than their families and other military families. Long, repeated deployments cause stress and strain, lost jobs, foreclosures, and more. We have been in this for a loooooonnnnggg time.
I don’t have family members currently serving. I didn’t have anything to do with any of this until I drove back and forth through Jacksonville, NC, through Camp Lejune, on a day trip to Emerald Isle in October of 2009. I never lived in a military town, and I little to no experience with it. We drove through the city, with the base on either side. Bedsheets with “Welcome home so and so” or “We miss you so and so” or “We will never forget you so and so” hung from the miles and miles of chain link fences separating the base from the rest of us.
I cried. But then, I went home and did something. First, I found Blue Star Families, an organization that supports the families of actively serving military personnel. I wrote thank you cards to those family members: spouses, children, parents and grandparents of military personnel. Then, via twitter, I found Adopt a Platoon. My husband and I adopted two service members. Each week, we send a card or postcard or letter. Once a month we send a care package.
Here, whether or not we hear
I haven’t heard from my soldiers. I’ve only been supporting them for a few months, and mail takes a long time. And, they’re busy. And, at least one of them is living in a very remote area with little access to anything other than very basic life necessities. It isn’t their job to write to me. It is their job to do their job, and my job to support them.
I like writing the cards. I tell them about what’s growing in my garden. I tell them funny stories about my dog. I tell them what the ocean feels like after I haven’t been in for several months–salt stinging in my pores. I write to them about my travels. I tell them we think of them daily. Most of all, I thank them for what they’re doing.
What they do allows me to stay home and write. To go surfing. To curl up with my husband at night. They have volunteered, so that not everyone has to. They all have different reasons for serving.
A complicated situation
War is not pretty and it isn’t simple. It involves people, and when you have more than one person involved in anything, you have conflicts. I think is overly simplistic to say “we never should have gone in” or “we have to get out now”. There are a lot of in-betweens.
What is NOT in between is that for the entire history of our country, men and women have sacrificed their lives–all or portion–so that we can live as we please. So that we can have a chance to make something of ourselves.
On Memorial Day, besides thanking our veterans, the biggest thanks that I think we can all pass along is to SUPPORT THOSE WHO ARE CURRENTLY SERVING. Support them. Support their families. Let them know that we appreciate their sacrifices and hardships. Honor the veterans by showing them that the sacrifices they made were not in vain, and that the sacrifices that our currently serving personnel and their families are making are not in vain.
Here are some easy things you can do to help. These are not political. They are not religious. They are one human to another saying: I see you. I appreciate what you’re doing. It matters to me. Thank you.
Support your Veterans, their Families, and Currently Deployed Service Members
Blue Star Families: This organization supports families with actively deployed service members. The easiest way to become involved is to participate in Operation Appreciation. In this program, you write a note of thanks to a family member, and send it to Blue Star Families. They then send the card out to a family member. It is as easy as a notecard and ONE STAMP. Learn more about this initiative here.
Adopt a Platoon: This organization has been around since 1998, and is organized to support actively serving personnel IN THE FIELD. You can become a “pen pal,” where you send one letter or card a week, or you can “adopt” a service member or a whole platoon, and send letters once a week and a care package once a month. One or two service members are great for families. A whole platoon is a great project for church groups, clubs, and community organizations.
To fill out their new supporter application, click here.
When you scroll through their photo albums and read the notes of thanks from service members who have received support, you’ll see why it is so important to help.
THANK YOU to all of our service men and women who have served and are serving. THANK YOU.