Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A marine comes to my small town...then goes

With visions of an anonymous Post Traumatic Stressed jarhead showing up at our door in 20-years with an old, weathered picture of the girls holding a flag along with a letter we randomly sent enclosed in a care package of beef jerky and Adam Sandler DVDs, my fatherly instincts have prevented me from signing up with one of these online "adopt a soldier" services.

As much as I wanted to send a little bit of home to a deserving member of our dedicated and heroic armed forces, ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you how uber-careful I am about letting people (not just strangers mind you, but anyone) into the inner circle of my family's life.

I figure with two daughter's and a wife with some media presence, I'm well within my rights to err on the side of caution when it comes to their safety -- even in my small town.

Selfish, I know. Paranoid, probably. Careful to a fault, you bet.

Fortunately for us and our desire to participate in the homefront efforts, we do know of a young Marine who is currently in Iraq.


He is the nephew of the lady who is the niece of the woman that owns the house next door to us but is currently in a nursing home.

This 23-year old U.S. citizen was living in Australia when the fighting broke out, moved back to the States to enlist, and spent the final 3 months of wearing civies living in the storage room/converted to living quarters attached to the large garage behind our neighbor's house.

We didn't get to know him all that well since he was young and mobile and always seemed to be coming or going somewhere during his short time as a resident of my small town.

I did talk to him once or twice about nothing in particular, along with several requisite "male-upward-head-jerk" silent greetings across the driveway.

But once I heard that he had enlisted in the Marines and was going down to Camp Pendleton, California for his basic training, I told him about a few good places to eat and hang out at nearby Oceanside (where my Dad retired to), where a supposedly sweet and secretive surfing spot is located nearby the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, along with the proper procedures for prepping his car for long term storage.

After getting regular updates on his status and whereabouts from his Aunt, we decided it was time to put together a CARE package to send to the lad. Some research online revealed a bevy of information on what specifically our G.I's in the Iraqi theater needed/wanted and off we went shopping with our list.

While in line at WalMart, the cashier took a quick stock of our purchases and knowingly commented that they too had been shipping items to a loved one serving in the war.

I used this site as a starting point, but ended up gathering tidbits of info from various personal sites of family and webbies who had loved ones serving -- from first hand experience, they posted more specific recommendations on brand names, sizes, quantities, etc.

The strangest thing I found myself purchasing and sending were several tins of Copenhagen snuff. According to an online resource...Copenhagen Snuff in a tin ("Even if the service member doesn't dip snuff, they will be a hero and have more power than the Commanding Officer if they have a 'log' (10 cans) of 'Hagen.' A large percentage of infantry use this stuff and it is hard to get. The stuff they do get comes in a plastic can and tastes terrible. The 'Stateside Hagen' is the most powerful bargaining tool in a field environment!")The girl's drew him a few pictures of themselves and Franny, and we wrote a short letter outlining who we were. In case he still didn't recall, we also enclosed a photo of my two muppets holding up a humongous American flag, while standing in front of the door to the storage shed where he lived during his stay in our town.

We recently heard from the Marine's aunt that he would be rotating stateside for 7-months at the end of October and would be stopping into town for a visit. I told her to tell him that a gigantic rib-eye dinner would be awaiting him at our house anytime he wanted...after he got settled in.

Just hope he makes it back.


Unknown said...

What a great thing to do for our service members. Thank you very much for doing that.

tuesday said...

I can understand your safety concerns. I had the same concerns when I organized a collection of care packages at my church. I made sure the kids' notes and drawings only had first names and used the church's mailing address instead of home addresses. It's a shame we have to worry about that these days, but it is what it is.

I did have ongoing communications with two enlistees for awhile until their tours were done. Luckily, they both made it back in one piece, but several of their buddies did not, and I could tell by the tone of their letters how hard that was on them, even if they didn't express it in so many words.

I'm sure your neighbor's nephew (three times removed) really appreciated you thinking of him, and I bet he can't wait for that homemade meal you promised him.

Thanks for bringing up this topic, because I think as time goes on, it's easy for us to get lazy about letting our troops know that we still support them and appreciate all they are doing.