The holidays can be a lonely time for soldiers and sailors away from home. Today we have an estimated 1.3 million serving in the armed services with more than 300,000 deployed to more than 150 countries around the world.
In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget these brave men and women who serve on our behalf. Sending them a card or care package can make a big difference.
I was reminded of that fact a couple of years ago at a wedding. I met up with Bruce, a family friend, whom I hadn’t seen in years.
“You were a good kid,” he said.
“I was?” I mean I hoped I was good, but I had no idea what he was talking about.
He explained that back in 1971 I had sent a large box of homemade cookies to him at boot camp in Louisiana. I believe he was stationed at Camp Beauregard, the place where National Guardsmen trained during the Vietnam era.
It was a scary time, and I imagined what it would be like to be in such a hot place, hundreds of miles from home, next door to recruits who would most certainly be shipped to Southeast Asia—a place with a lot of sad endings. By then we were used to hearing body counts on the Nightly News. 1971 alone saw 2,414 American casualties.
“You outdid yourself,” Bruce said. Clearly they had cured the lonelies for a while.
Knowing my mother, she would have huffed and puffed about packing Bruce’s cookies properly in a tin to keep them fresh and unbroken on their long ride to Louisiana. We would have taken the package to the post office, had it weighed, paid maybe $3 or so to ship. Mom, the practical type, would have groused that the postage was way more than cookies you could buy at the store..
Apparently my cookies were a hit if they are still being talked about 45 years later. The odd thing was that I had no memory of making or sending them. Not one flicker. Maybe it’s because I made cookies a lot that year. I was a senior in high school and was taking Home Economics, an easy, fun elective to round out my class schedule.
My best guess is that the cookies were snickerdoodles, a recipe borrowed from my best friend Ginny, whose Mom was a big cookie baker. I still have the handwritten recipe in my recipe box written in my neat teen-aged script, before college note-taking and writer’s scribble took their toll.
I did admit to Bruce that I had sent care packages to other soldiers, including a co-worker who served in Desert Storm. I remember the day that soldier returned to work in 1991. He made a bee line to thank me for my letters and care packages.
The late great Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Ms. Angelou was a wise woman.
We may think a box of cookies is no big deal, but the memory of receiving cookies from home stays with a soldier a long time. Forty-five years, maybe longer.
Although the mail deadline for shipping airlift parcels to deployed troops has passed, there is still time to mail cards and letters to individual soldiers. The deadline is Dec. 11 to APO, FPO and DPO addresses.
Even if you don’t know an active service member, expressing gratitude to anonymous soldiers can be done through such organizations as:
American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/military-families
Support Our Troops https://www.supportourtroops.org/care-packages
Operation Gratitude https://www.operationgratitude.com/
Operation Paperback http://www.operationpaperback.org/
USO Wishbook www.USO.org/wishbook
And even if your card or package or donated phone card doesn’t arrive at a soldier’s base until well after Dec. 25, it will still be appreciated. Gratitude and good wishes know no season.