Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thank You! From Afghanistan

From a deployed service-member, heartfelt thanks to Soldiers’ Angels

In the waning days of my year-long deployment to Afghanistan, I have begun to reflect on the things that have made a huge difference to me during my tour.

When I started this journey to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I would be wearing body armor and carrying around an M-16. As a Sailor, I was nervous about what I had gotten myself into. As a service member, I knew that it was my time to answer my nations call. Whatever was needed of me, I would do it.

After getting over the initial shock of being over here, I discovered the America Supports You campaign. I was amazed by how much love and heartfelt gratitude my fellow Americans had for all of us deployed personnel.

After a little web-surfing, I happened on the Soldiers’ Angels network. Little did I know at the time when I put my name in for it what a profound impact SA would have on me and my troops serving “over there”.

Within weeks, I was flooded by countless postcards, letters, care packages, and emails from ordinary, extraordinary Americans who were genuinely concerned about how I was doing. Was I getting enough to eat? Am I cool or warm enough? Do I have a special treat that would make life a little easier? Where was I from?

I was taken aback by so many new friends who were honestly concerned for my well-being and of the troops around me. I was shocked and awed to say the least.

We all get homesick and depressed being on the other side of the planet, not knowing if today was going to be our last day. Whenever I felt a little down in the dumps, I always had an Angel to turn to who lifted my spirits. My Angels were there when I needed them the most, when I felt like there was no one in the world understood what I was going through.

When I was first adopted by what seemed to be every Angel in the network, I endeavored to respond to ever person who wrote to me. I did my best, but there were so many people that cared that I quickly began losing massive amounts of sleep because I was “just trying to get in one last card before turning in”.

I just couldn’t respond to everyone. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t do my job and be a one-man letter writing campaign also.

I sent out over 230 Christmas cards last year, and I know that I missed a whole bunch of Angels who had corresponded with me. I hate it that I missed some Angels, but I did everything I could to write to everyone who had supported me.

If you didn’t get a card or letter from me, I sincerely apologize. I do hope that each and every one of you understands that there are sometimes not enough hours in the day to do anything but your job and sleep when you can find the time.

With only about thirty days to go until I start heading home, I’m now training the young men and women to do the job that I’ve done for the past 11 months. I hope that they listen to my tips and tricks to keep them safe. Most of all, I hope they take a little time out of their day to understand how much love their fellow Americans have for them.

From the deepest recesses of my heart, I want to personally thank each and every Angel. We couldn’t do what we have to do without having you there beside us, each and every step of the way.

You are all your heroes, heroes.

With warm regards,
Petty Officer First Class Matthew
Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Afghanistan

- May no soldier go unloved
Soldiers' Angels