Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why I Became an Angel Part II: Our Community

There are two questions I get asked routinely at Angel events or when I talked to others about being a Soldiers' Angel:

1) Do I have anyone in the military?
2) Does the military pay me to do this?

Let me answer the second question first: No. The military does not pay me or Soldiers' Angels any money to provide support to our troops. Everything is donated to Soldiers' Angels either by other individuals, companies or Angels themselves. This is a non-profit organization and everyone is a volunteer. We do it from love, pride, patriotism, respect and because it is the right thing to do.

Which brings me to the second question: Yes. My brother is in the military. For a long time now. He is not deployed. Interesting, while he was in some ways the inspiration for me to go the last distance and find a way to support our men and women currently deployed, he is not the ONLY reason I did so. As noted, he is not deployed. He is at home, living comfortably with his family. Something that sometimes bothers him because he wants to be "there" and because many of his friends and fellow service members have been or are "there". It just hasn't been his time yet. But, the knowing and the understanding that he may go at any time and be apart from our family, his wife, his little girls, makes me understand and compels me to be a Soldiers' Angel.

How many must go and sacrifice that time and love to serve our country without support or with limited support because they do not have an extended family network as our family does? How many are there who have a new, young family living off of the limited pay and trying to support a family here and a soldier, sailor, marine or airman "there"? They are many.

Because I have a brother in the military and because I know many others who have family or know someone in the military (six degrees of separation), it has made me very aware that those who serve are not some alien "other". They are people from our community, people that we know and sometimes our friends or family.

Interestingly enough, whenever I answer "Yes", I get a response like, "Ooohh" as if that answers the question of why I do what I do. That apparently explains it all. Everything I say after that sometimes falls on deaf ears because now I am part of "that" community, the military community, and not part of "this" community, the civilian community that has no relation to the military.

Sometimes, I am tempted to say, "no", just to see if anyone listens to the second part of my speech, the part that I have written about many times, the part where I say, "I do it because these are OUR people. People from OUR community. They are family, friends and neighbors. And, when they serve OUR nation, defending OUR people and sent by OUR government, I believe it is OUR responsibility, privilege and an honor to support OUR people as they serve US." That part gets lost sometimes after I say, "Yes".

But, my service as an Angel is truly about serving our community. Maybe my relationship does make me understand that more than others. Still, spend a few minutes talking to people and you will find out how true the phrase "six degrees of separation" really is when it comes to knowing someone who is in the military.

For instance, yesterday I received an email from Marcia, our Angel Advisor in the Kansas City area pointing me to a blog about Sgt Matt Lammers. Matt hails from Olathe, Kansas, just a short 45 minute drive from me, a suburb of Kansas City. Marcia's email said that Matt's dad helped her get her first teaching job. Matt was injured in an IED attack only 30 days ago. He is now making a remarkable recovery as a triple amputee who is on his way to rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid.

In that continuing way of "six degrees of separation", Matt was serving with the Black Lions in Baghdad. JD Johannes, from Outside the Wire, made this report about the Black Lions and their successes: Cellular Battle Space. The connection beyond JD running a blog as an independent writer and film maker, writing about the unit that Matt was from? JD's co-producer and friend David Chavarria came to film our "Talking with Heroes" event and allowed me a few minutes to tape an interview with him.

This is literally how close our community is to the military and the people who serve in it. They are everybody and everywhere. Just down the street from me, three houses occupying three corners of the entry to the road I live on have Marine flags flying and blue stars in the window. This is not a "military" town or by any means a "marine" town. But it is a town that has sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and people that we meet serving in our military.

Two days ago I was standing in a parking lot waiting for our welcome home mission to start for Cpl Green. I was talking with a Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy who was forming part of the escort for the other hero arriving. He told me that he was in Iraq in 2003 and had only recently retired from the National Guard after 20 years of service. The local Hyvee? The manager was in Afghanistan in 2005. A lady from Independence just found us through this website and emailed me. Her son was recently deployed to Iraq.

Only a few months ago I was standing in line at Walmart on Barry Rd when a woman behind me said, "Oh, it's great to see you back. How long are you here for?" and the reply told me all I needed to know before I turned around, "I'm here for ten days. It's all the leave I could take. At least, that was all the leave I was told I could ask for." There he was, in uniform, on leave, returning a baby crib. And the lady that I worked with whose son was in the military and whose daughter's best friend's dad was a recruiter.

Sometime back in May I was buying things to send to my guys and girls at the same Walmart. The young clerk asked me if I was going camping based on the things that I bought and the number: six hand warmers, six travel Gold Bond Powder, six deodorant, six liquid soaps, six lotion, six chapsticks, six sun blocks, etc, etc, etc. I explained to her what I was doing and she replied that her brother-in-law was in the military. I gave her one of our cards and told her about our organization. She was very interested because she said she had been wanting to do something to support our military.

All of these people are from our community. All of these people serve. All of these people are "ours".

And that is why I became an Angel. Because I believe we should always take care of the people from our community who stand for our country and, ultimately, defend our community.

Please help us support the service men and women from our community by joining Soldiers' Angels

Part I - Why I Became an Angel: Somebody had to give a damn

Part III will be up next week: The Phone Call That Started It All or "Hell, yes! I want those SOBs to sweat like I had to!"

- May no soldier go unloved