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How to Serve Those Who Serve

Friday, November 11, 2016 @ 12:00 PM
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Teddy James Writer, AFA Journal MORE

My dad has been in the military since he was 17. He started in the Navy then switched over to the Army National Guard in Mississippi. The military has a culture all its own. Those within that culture may not recognize it, and those outside may not understand it. 

But being the son of a soldier has given me a glimpse of that culture, albeit still on the outside looking in. 

And that perspective has given me such a great respect and admiration for soldiers of every branch and rank. It has always been the desire of my heart to serve the men and women who serve our country. Here are some great ways for you to simply say “thanks.” 

Write a letter 

One of the most telling quotes about war is that it is “organized boredom pierced by moments of sheer terror.” When soldiers are not planning or executing operations, they have to combat boredom, loneliness, homesickness, and low morale. 

For the vast majority of soldiers, they are looking for two things: orders to go home and letters from home. 

However, there are several soldiers in units across the globe who never receive a single letter or care package. 

That is where Any Soldier comes in. Any Soldier takes letters addressed to “Any Soldier,” “Any Marine,” or “Any Sailor” and makes sure those serving 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. 

But soldiers need encouragement once they get home after a deployment too. Sometimes they need it more at home than when they were on the frontline. 

Operation Gratitude steps in to meet this need. It sends letters to both active duty soldiers and veterans who have returned stateside. Rather than trying to explain the impact it makes, here is a quote from a soldier: 

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 to write and pack 

It can be intimidating to stare at a blank screen or page and try to pound out a letter to a soldier you have never met. There is no way for you to know what that soldier needs or wants to hear. You have no clue what struggles he or she is facing. Fortunately, Operation Gratitude has some helpful tips. If you want to get your kids involved, you can have them draw a picture for the soldier. 

First and foremost, keep you message upbeat. Don’t talk about death, politics, or killing. However, feel free to talk about your faith. Pray over the letter and let the soldier know what you are praying. But remember this is not an opportunity for a sermon. 

Do always include a note of appreciation to the soldier. You can explain why you wanted to write and/or send a care package. If you do not know what you pack in a care package, Operation Gratitude has you covered there too with a soldier wish list and an Amazon link where you can buy everything online. 

Better than letters 

But there is one thing that is often better than receiving a letter or even a care package, and that is hearing the voice of a loved one back home. It is easy to assume soldiers and their families have access to the Internet and can Skype or call each other online. But that is not always the case. 

Many of my dad’s soldiers went months without talking to anyone back home because the family could not afford Internet access or did not have a provider where they lived. In those cases, organizations such as Cell Phones for Soldiers provide free international calling cards for members of the military. This can be a lifeline for many who would otherwise not have the ability to call home. CPFS also provides a one-time grant to help soldiers return home in emergency situations. Both are funded by recycling donated cell phones and tablets. 

For more ideas, listen to the interview on the Engage Podcast with my dad, Teddy James Sr., where we talk about some practical ways you can serve those who serve America and specific things you can pray over. 

In any case, today find a soldier and thank him for his service. You may never know the sacrifices soldiers and their families have made to make your life safe, secure, and free.

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