Friday, February 16, 2007

Silent Soldier: Don't Be Discouraged

When soldiers are assigned through Soldiers' Angels, new angels are informed not to expect to hear from them. Even though angels understand the many obvious reasons and continue their support, this can sometimes be discouraging. I am contributing this as a personal account of a once silent soldier named Mike as an example of the difference support from an angel can make and how it can spread beyond just the adopted soldier.

This is a little story about Mike, back in 05'-06 also known as, "Silent Mike" the classic silent soldier until month eight of my weekly letters and monthly care packages. He sent one of the most heartfelt emails I have received since joining SA and I've received some that would make even a grown man tear up. It totally closed the gap on the eight months of silence and made it all make sense- I knew he was probably silent because of how tough it was and I was right + 10. He'd married shortly before deploying, the deployment had been rough, good friends had been lost. He said our family's letters and care packages always seemed to arrive on a day when things had been bad, and talked about how much they helped. Following the deployment Mike and I kept in touch, nothing regular just an email every couple of months or a joke or something.

Now it is in '07 and Mike is back in Iraq. His wonderful wife sent me a very nice email to thank me for the last deployment, to let me know his address, and to share the website address they were going to use to keep people updated. She even decided to adopt a soldier through Soldiers' Angels- because in her words,

"Not only am I a proud soldier's wife but I'm also just like you, a thankful American."

Being an organized angel I sent Mike the survey found on the forum, with my usual instructions, "Fill this out if you have time but if you don't I'll send a variety of things." It arrived today filled out. Funny how he remembers so many of the things I sent before (ideas from the forum). Comments like, "I'm hooked on Burt's Bees lip balm now because of the package you sent." or "Where did you get that Chillow?" There are also many signs of the wit I have come to know since '06. Survey question: "Do you have any allergies?" his answer "The Army" Or Survey question: I could really use - answer "A ticket home". The survey ended with yet another heartfelt thank you to our family. I could also tell from the note why survey # 1 was never returned- he didn't really want to ask for anything as was just happy with whatever support we chose to send.

I am posting this story for those of you with silent soldiers as an example of what results from your continued support, not that you always hear of it personally. I've had a couple adopted soldiers who never broke the silence either, but I can tell you from this one experience it is obvious how important this whole "support from a stranger'" thing is to these young men and women and their families. In this case kindness from a stranger has been "paid forward" to another worthy hero.

I'll be honest being, "In the loop" can be tough on me, causing increased worry, so this whole no longer silent thing does have a flip side. However, with all I've learned in the last 21/2 years including some good coping strategies, I am all set to "Keep my helmet on" for a 2nd deployment.

God Bless you all for all that you do and most of all God Bless our Troops!

Marcia Conley
Regional Manager Kansas/Greater KC Area

- May no soldier go unloved