Eleventh hour. Eleventh day. Eleventh month. It is 1918 and the Allied Powers have finally signed an armistice with Germany, ending major hostilities between the two countries. A year later President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 Armistice Day, setting it aside to show recognition of and appreciation for those who sacrificed and served in our military forces. In 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower designated it as Veterans Day.
Why we write
It has been said that war is organized boredom pierced by moments of sheer terror. On top of fending off attacks from enemies, soldiers must combat boredom, loneliness, homesickness, and low morale on a daily basis.
Standard strategies to fight these include practical jokes, reading, writing letters and creating games that take as long to explain as they do to play.
Soldiers in any branch during any operation will say that, next to getting orders to go home, the best thing they do while deployed is opening letters and packages from home. But many soldiers go through entire deployments without receiving one phone call, one email or one care package.
This is where you can come in. Any Soldier, and organizations similar to it, take letters addressed to “Any Soldier,” “Any Marine,” or “Any Sailor” and make sure those serving America but not receiving much or any mail will receive these letters first. Since its inception in 2003, Any Soldier has delivered over 2,000,000 letters to soldiers, marines, airmen, sailors, and those in the Coast Guard.
Operation Gratitude sends letters to active duty soldiers and veterans who have returned home. One veteran responded to Operation Gratitude, writing:
When I opened your envelope today and read your letter and the three others you have sent me, I was profoundly moved. Through the years since I returned home, I have had people, from time to time, thank me for my service. But this is the first time I have received letters written from the heart by people who have no idea who I am – only the fact that I served. With each one I read, I could feel the emotions welling up inside. When I finished the last one, I was filled to bursting with pride, love for my country, and love for my people. Please accept my thanks for your thoughtfulness and caring. I never thought letters like this could have such an effect. You have given me a gift I will carry in my heart always.
What we write
Operation Gratitude realizes people often don’t write because they don’t know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. The organization provides useful information for those interested.
The first and most important piece of advice is to keep the message upbeat and positive. The only topics not appropriate are death, killing, and politics. Let the soldier know you are praying and offer encouraging Scripture, but don’t make the letter a sermon. Remember that the point of the letter is to show appreciation and make the soldier or veteran smile.
Also include the reason you are writing. Do you have a family member serving who has inspired you to show support to every person in uniform? Do you not have a family member or friend serving but want to say thanks to a true hero? Express that in the letter.
Above and beyond
There are many opportunities to encourage soldiers beyond writing letters. Operation Gratitude encourages supporters to fill packages with candy, CDs, DVDs, books, coffee, balm, sunscreen, and other needed items. Here is a list of soldier-requested items, and here is a way to purchase specific items on Amazon.
Another way to get involved is recycling an old cell phone. Many programs will accept old cell phones and tablets, recycle them, and use the money to buy phone cards for soldiers to call home whenever they find down time.
More ways to encourage soldiers and their families can be found here.
This Veterans Day, send a letter to a soldier or a veteran. Give special recognition to friends and family who have served. No matter what you write, pack or do, make a concerted effort to give honor to the heroes who walk in our midst.