Storm Bear

Letters From Soldiers

Filed By Storm Bear | May 26, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Afghanistan, Books For Soldiers, Iraq, Marine Corps, Memorial Day, military, US Air Force, US Army, US Navy

I tried to think of something pithy to say about Memorial Day and after about the tenth draft, I decided to let the troops speak for themselves. These are letters to my charity Books For Soldiers.

Check them after the flip.

From R J

Somewhere about a month out from my departure, I started collecting small promises. All of my friends, all of my family, places I would frequent, soldiers I recruited into the Army, all of them would offer these small promises to me. "When you leave, I swear I will send you stuff." "Write me with your address, and I will make sure I write you back." "If you need ANYTHING, all you have to do is ask." Maybe they felt obligated to say these thing. I can only guess. They may have even believed they were being sincere at the time. It's amazing how quickly people forget about you when you are gone. Out of sight-Out of mind is not just a saying. It's a truth. My wife writes me. She is very consistent. Once a week I get something from her. It really is uplifting. In between letters, I wonder what happened to everyone else.

I am not afraid of dying here. Death doesn't scare me a bit. Being forgotten scares me. If I pass on, will anyone remember me? So many people have passed through my live and have touched me in some way...Will they cast a thought in my direction?

I was a recruiter for just over 4 years before I came out here to Iraq. At the end of my recruiting time, I was tasked with escorting Generals from the Pentagon to attend funerals at Arlington National Cemetary. I attended too many of them...Hell, one is too many. I attended the funeral of a Marine I tried to recruit into the Army. His joining the Marines really was a loss to the Army. I hope the Marines know what they got...and what they lost. He was remembered well by hundreds of people. His funeral was a national event. It was tragic. So much potential lost.

I attended the funeral of another soldier...a Specialist. Besides the General and I, there were only 5 other people at the funeral. It was a beautiful although small ceremony. When all was said and done, his mother returned to Ohio. His friend, who was also injured in the explosion and was receiving treatment at Walter Reed, returned to the hospital. At the funeral, there were no fond rememberances...There was no testament to the life this man lived. It was so sad. It angered me in some way. It hurt me way down deep that Politicians and top Generals would show up for Bihn Le (he deserved as much recognition as anyone can give him), but almost no one came to mark the passing of this anonymous Specialist.

I consider that Specialist sometimes. Will that be how I end my time here on Earth? Will anyone remember me, does anyone care?

BFS cares. The Soccer Moms, Nascar Dads, the students, the Yuppies, the retired, the church-goers, the liberals, the conservatives, etc...All of you care enough to remind soldiers that someone out there cares for the sacrifices they are making. I hold on to the belief that at some point during that anonymous Specialist's tour here, someone from BFS or from Soldier Angels, or any other like organization touched that soldiers life. You have touched mine.

Last night I received two packages from BFS members. One was the book "The Action Hero's Handbook", the other was filled with snacks and horror movies...just in time for Halloween. I don't receive much here, so when I was told I had packages...plural...My heart did somersaults in my chest. I tore open the box right away and I handed out the Halloween candy like I was Santa Claus on Christmas Day. The Reese Peanut Butter cups were a hit! I saved just short of half of the candy for the night shift, and it was a good thing too, because by the time I dropped off my laundry and came back, all of the candy I left was gone. I kept some tootsie rolls for myself and let the rest of the soldiers devour the last of the candy when I came back into work for the night shift. Now I can enjoy some tootsie rolls while I learn to be a proper action hero.

It helps. Everything you send helps. The letters, the postcards, someone sent me a huge box of footpowder... All of it helps. Your packages and letters help me to not feel so isolated and removed from the world while I am here. Thank you for fulfilling the small well-meaning promises of those people who for one reason or another could not fulfill them. You guys are the best friends I never met. Everyone in my office appreciates what you do. Especially my Captain, who as it turns out, hoarded a bunch of the fun sized packages of Whoppers.

You guys are amazing.


From S K

...The medical team here sees lots of local Afghan civilians, and children, who truly are the most innocent victims of this war. Helping them is just as important as killing the bad guys, as that is what we need to do for long-term success in winning the hearts of the people. Whenever we are here and we can assist them, we do what we can. Often if kids are brought in, we'll give them whatever toys or candy we have....


From J G
I cannot start to thank you for what you are doing for the troops and for my morale and the others deployed with me.

Well the Operating base here in Northern Afghanistan is very rural to say the least. Tents and a hot shower once a week if you are the first 20 in line.

Thank you any for the letter and hope to get more.

The website will show you the what the environment looks like (Colorado) and what the mission we are conducting here. We are trying to update the website with new pictures and stories some of them are dated, but will give you any idea of what we are doing.

Thank you again. Anything you could send would be greatly appriciated.

We will be on deployment until March 2009.


From John S.

Most of us here in Afghanistan are in remote areas that make it difficult to obtain even some basic items, let alone books.

Thanks for all your work.


From J W

I assist in the running of a combat stress clinic, first at Camp Victory Iraq then at Camp Anaconda, and now here. The soldiers who come to the clinic are so grateful for the literature I am able to give them. Thank you for providing the means.


From P W
Thank you so, so much for arranging for the magazines to be sent to our convoy support team from "Books for Soldiers"! We were able to pick up mail for the first time today and we received a huge box of magazines from Wisconsin. The magazines will be a huge help to the convoys. They are a hit already.

They will be a huge help, because we have a lot of convoys traveling through our CST (on their way home!) in the next few weeks/months the soldiers on the convoys will appreciate the magazines very, very much.

Your support is very much appreciated. On behalf of our team THANK YOU!


From A S

I am a soldier who really doesn't get a chance to get on the internet. I
just wanted to tell everyone that works with you and the things that you do for us, some of the soldiers don't get much packages but thanks to you guys they do.

It really lights up their day and they talk about the things that was sent to them. So again thank you for helping some of these young soldiers who really don't have families and becoming part of their lives.

You do make a difference to our lives everyday.

From J R

Everyone has a pretty good support system from home; we get packages almost everyday of candy and granola bars, that are usually consumed by the next day.

We're an Aviation unit, so everyone stuffs the pockets of their flight suit with goodies to munch on during long flights. We fly CH-47 Chinook helicopters, which are the Army's heavy lifters.

My company really loves booksforsoldiers.com, in fact, the guy who is sitting next to me as I type this uses the site and its generous members to get books for the remote learning college courses he's taking. I might have to get in on the college, but being a Platoon Leader is keeping me pretty busy for now.

Well, it looks like someone's about to nuke some Peeps in the company microwave, better go make sure they don't explode.

Thanks so much for all you do!


From J C

I am a Virginia National Guardsman. I am a truck driver, a Gun Truck Driver, to be specific. I'm stationed in Iraq.

I heard about BFS about the time we got settled in and I looked over the site. I thought this must be something small, a few grandmothers, Girl Scout troops perhaps, nothing special, but I wrote to them anyway.

In 2003 I was deployed for a few months, during which time my wife of three years left me, and ran me into the poor house. So when I deployed this year I didn't really have much at home, my dad was occupied with personal matters, and my mother is in poor health.

I didn't expect a lot of mail, to be plain about it. After writing to BFS I forgot about it actually. Then one day I had a letter in the mail, the clerk had to catch me walking around to tell me, cause I never checked it. The next day another letter, then three, then a box. Then the e-mail started pouring in. Grandmothers? Yes, a few. But also soccer moms, NASCAR dads, middle school kids, a girl in her junior year of college. A little boy named Donnie sent me a crayon drawing of me, GI Joe. More people than I could ever have imagined writing a complete stranger. These true patriots, true Americans supporting me. Some sent just one letter, some have sent four or five boxes. I try to write them all in between missions, but I cant keep up. They send me their love and kindness, they soften the hard edge of the desert for me. They show me what I am really over here fighting for. I know that I will never be able to repay all the kindness they have sent to me, but I hope I have served them well while I could.

That is what BFS means to me.


From B T

Let me first start by saying thank you for your support to the men and women in the U.S. Military. Whether you know it or not, it means a GREAT deal to us.

The reasons that we initially join are as numerous as the stars, but somewhere in those reasons is a desire to serve. To know that we are appreciated by the very people that we have chosen to serve, regardless of the current political climate or "cause" of the day provides motivation and pride beyond measure. So again, your Marines say thanks to you, your organization and all of those across the country like you.

I received the Art of War on CD and a paperback copy. I am looking forward to reading it and will share it with my Marines. I have read it before, but it is worth reading again and it is also on the Commandants Reading List (required reading for Sergeants and above) as part of our Professional Military Education program.

As you probably know by my address, we are in Kuwait not in Iraq.

Many of my Marines have done previous combat tours in Iraq so this is a welcomed break for them, while others are itching to go up north so they are a bit disappointed, but their morale is high and they understand the value of what they provide to the mission as a whole.

Overall we are all doing well and morale is high. Mail is not a problem. We get plenty of care packages from individual family members and from other organizations.

I have actually never listened to an audio book, and not sure how well I would do with it. I am definitely a visual learner. I will give it a try with the Art of War CD.


From R T

I signed up for the "Books for Soldiers" program when I first deployed to Iraq in November. Immediately, I began receiving packages from thoughtful people. My battle buddies were envious of all the packages I received, and I encouraged them to sign up for the program as well. I can't tell you how much joy "Books for Soldiers" has brought us here in Iraq. We are working in a very high-stress environment, and I have had many a bad day that was brightened simply by receiving a package from a "Books for Soldiers" member.

I wanted to thank you for your kindness, and for making us feel appreciated. I want to thank you on behalf of the soldiers in 66 MI CO, 3 ACR, and also want you to know that we intend on volunteering for "Books for Soldiers" when we return to the U.S. because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of getting the packages, and how much it means.


From G G

Yes, this will be my last letter as we should be packing things up and waiting for our ride home by the time you get this letter. I would like to thank all the BFS supporters for all they have done. The Marines and I enjoyed the books, games, and snacks that everyone has sent. I can honestly say that in my eight deployments, fourth one here in Iraq, that you and the supporters of BFS made a huge impact in our daily lives here. Morale has never been higher and I thank you for that...

...Take care and keep up the important work that all of you do. It means a lot to all of us to know we are not forgotten. America needs all of us, together we can't be stopped.


From K S

Thank you for Wilbur Smiths "Birds of Prey". I just received it , well yesterday I did. Can't wait to start it. He is an excellent author and have enjoyed reading all that he has written, or at least all that I have gotten my hands on. Great way to escape the reality a little bit at a time.

Books for Soldiers has been a great site, and i really do appreciate what people like you do to send up a book here and there. Can't wait to finish the book I'm on now, another Tom Clancy Op-center book, (I think I've read it before, maybe on my last deployment- but am still reading until i can remember whether or not I have read it) and will jump right into Wilbur.

Thanks for this, when I'm done, I'll drop it to another reader over here.


From J S

I would like to say that I appreciate everything that you all are doing for us military men and women. We go through very hard times, times when it doesn't feel like what we are doing matters, but its people like you (God bless) that help us soldiers keep on keeping on. People like you to show us that we haven't been forgotten about and we aren't fighting in vain. Thank you for everything that you do to help us overseas!


From R D

Thank you ..... It means a lot to get something from someone. Life is pretty boring over here, in between rocket attacks. ... It makes me feel proud to be an American when I get letters and things from people. We live in a great country and we might not always be right all the time but our intentions are always for good reasons. God bless you and tell all your friends we do what we do for them.


From J K

Thank you so much for the Steven Pressfield book and for participating in "Books for Soldiers". I received your package yesterday and it seems it got here in record time. It usually takes two to three weeks for our mail to come from the States, and being at an isolated outpost in Northeastern Afghanistan makes it even more challenging.

I currently serving in Afghanistan with the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. We have been in Afghanistan for a little over ten months, and are scheduled to re-deploy back to our home station around the August/September time frame. We are based in Vicenza, Italy and are all looking forward to getting back. It has already been a long, hard road.

Just so you know, I couldn't put the book down last night after working for about 18 hours. I finished about a third of it already. Reading has been my escape from here, and definitely regulates my sanity.

I am thankful for your caring, generosity, and patriotism. Thank you for supporting this great program and for supporting me and my fellow service members.

As some of you may know, I founded Books For Soldiers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that sends books, DVDs and other care package items to any US Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine - for free of course.

Here is how it works.

Troops can go to BooksForSoldiers.com and fill out the form and one of our volunteers will see if they have the book on their shelf and they will then pack it up and ship it off to the soldier.

I got the idea back during the first Gulf war when friends of mine from college were sent off to Saudi Arabia. After the 4 day war, most were stuck in the desert for months on end with nothing to do. I rounded up all my sci-fi books that were collecting dust and then raided my civilian friend's book collections and sent them to an Army hospital in Riyadh where my military pals were stationed. They then handed out the books to the soldiers on the base. I was receiving letters from strangers a year later, thanking me for the books. They were a good break from the boredom.

When the War On Terror started, I figured our troops would be home in a matter of weeks after Baghdad fell. I erroneously thought the Pentagon had an exit strategy and Books For Soldiers would be a nice six week project then on to something else. I knew I had to reach more people than I did during the first Gulf War - I just couldn't do it all myself. So I put together a self-serve website and BFS was born.

Due to the cluster fuck now known as Iraq, BFS celebrated our 5th year anniversary this past Spring.

The economy has been rough this year for charities. Local food banks are reducing services, women's shelters are closing - those 1000 Points Of Light that Bush Sr. proudly yapped about are being hit hard by the crushing economy. Financial contributions to BFS this year disappeared almost completely. I think the reason is partially because of the economy and the other part is the lack of MSM coverage of the war in Iraq. I can track rises and falls of traffic on BFS directly to the amount of coverage the war gets. When the statue of Saddam fell, traffic started to tank. By the next day we lost 90% of out traffic and it took almost a year to build back up to the initial level.

Starting at the first of this year, BFS started a robust fundraising campaign here in North Carolina. We contacted small companies and some large companies you probably have heard of. To date, we have received a stack of letters that begin with "we deeply regret not being able to donate this year." From our corporate donation campaign we have received a tad under thirty dollars from a philanthropy grants group in Winston Salem, NC. That was it, nothing else.

The BFS Board of Directors have discussed this problem for some time and have decided to have another go at fundraising. The Board set a goal of $70,000 to raise by November 1st of this year. If that amount is not raised, the site will close on December 31st, 2008.

If we cannot make the fundraising target, the Board will seek to sell the site to another qualified 501(c)(3) or close. We would also stop accepting new books requests from soldiers on December 1st, 2008.

Below are some ways of how you can help

1) Office party fundraiser - Coordinate a "Save BFS Day" at work and urge, beg, cajole your co-workers into coughing up something for BFS.

2) Have your company cough up some cash. We will send your company a formal donation request, just send us the company name, contact name and address and we will get it out right away. Send these requests to me personally (storm@booksforsoldiers.com).

3) Have your place of worship pass the plate (hat, kippah, whatever) for BFS. Consult with your church's leader about holding a "Save BFS Offering" one day this month. Checks should be made out to "Books For Soldiers." If they have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly to set up a call.

4) Visit our donation page and give what you can.

http://booksforsoldiers.com/donate.php

or by check

Books For Soldiers
2008 Fund Drive
353 Jonestown Rd #123
Winston Salem, NC 27104


Recent Entries Filed under Media:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 27, 2008 12:07 AM

Bear!

Thank you for this post. I have forwarded it to about 20 people I know who love the sacrifice of our military men and women. It will take a while, but my check is on the way.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 27, 2008 1:17 AM

On Memorial Day we mourn the GI’s killed and wounded in the illegal Clinton/Bush war on Iraq, which now total 4,082 Americans and an additional 312 allies plus 29,978 US wounded, a little less that half that number seriously. There is nothing remotely patriotic about these deaths.

These figures do not include in-theatre or stateside suicides. And while we’re at we should take a minute to mourn the hundreds of thousands of babies and children who died as a result of the Clinton/Bush infanticide and the million or so men, women and children who’ve died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq to steal their oil by Bush and his congressional supporters, the Democrats and Republicans.

VIDEOS

Video interview of the Hassan Juma leader of the Iraqi Oil Workers Confederation on the presence of US Troops in Iraq… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRV8EKgyCG8#

Video: IVAW Iraq Veterans Against the War demonstrate what the reality is in Iraq, on the streets of Chicago … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2OJP0sWOaM&feature=related#

And in Manhattan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BabrfOC0cbM#

Video: How to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis and steal their oil, the Clinton/Bush method…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BabrfOC0cbM#
And
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neDgVb9YHcA&feature=related#

PRESS REPORTS AND ANALYSIS

GI’s adapt to war and vets adapt to life on the streets...

http://365gay.com/Newscon07/12/121307dadt.htm

http://www.alternet.org/asoldierspeaks/80461/

http://www.sirnosir.com/home_reference_library.html archival material of part of the GI antiwar experience in Nam, during LBJ’s genocide

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/11/02/mil_protest/ - the first steps of the GI anti-Iraq genocide movement

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39788 – “search and avoid”

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/78352/ Vets Break Silence on Iraq War Crimes

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/waroniraq/70077/ Support Iraq Vets - "Christmas in Fallujah" went on sale last December on Apple Inc.'s iTunes. Net proceeds will be donated to Homes for Our Troops, which builds homes for severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/68980/ - one of the reasons they call it the Clinton/Bush genocide

RESOURCES

http://www.ivaw.org/ - Iraq Veterans Against the War

http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/ US Labor Against the War

http://www.uuiraq.org/english/128.htm Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq

I'll try to put together some free blog ads from around the progressive blogosphere, Storm. I don't have any cash to send you, but I'll do what I can!

I've also added this post to Digg, Reddit, Mixx, Stumble, Facebook and Twitter. Readers can vote the posts up on those sites to help more people get the word.