Recently, I had done some reflection on how I got here. My life has been an amazing journey and, in large part, I have the military to thank for that. It has been seven years since I separated from the army. In those seven years, I am ashamed to report, I have done very little (ok, let’s be honest….nothing) to support the troops that are still serving our country. How could I let this happen? I, of all people, should have remembered how meaningful it was to receive letters and care packages from people that I had never even met before. People that just wanted to do something…anything…to remind the troops that they were in their thoughts and not forgotten. But then, I had forgotten.
While deployed to Iraq in 2004, I had been in contact with Ron Aiello of the United States War Dog Association because I was very excited about the upcoming unveiling of a war dog memorial in New Jersey (my home state). Shortly thereafter, several citizens had contacted Ron to find out what they could do to help support the troops and their K-9 counterparts. Since Ron knew my contact information, he shared it with those that wanted to help. The support we received was overwhelming. They sent us care packages filled with human and canine goodies, they wrote heartfelt letters, and they hung up pictures in their offices of us with our dogs to remind them of our daily sacrifices during their typical day-to-day routines. They did all of this without us even asking for their support and it truly meant a great deal to me at the time.
Nowadays, it is even easier to reach out to deployed soldiers to let them know you care about and support them. There are soldier adoption programs through non-profit organizations like Soldiers’ Angels and Adopt a US Soldier. I was recently inspired by Gina to start making up for the past seven years. I served my country with pride, but there is still more that I can do. More that I should do. I am happy to report that I have adopted 2 soldiers (one through each organization listed above) and I am committed to making up for lost time. I can only hope that my words of appreciation, encouragement and support will mean as much to them as my supporters’ words meant to me.
Hopefully I have inspired you to make a difference as well. There are currently soldiers on a waitlist to be adopted, so I applaud you if are willing to donate your time to show that you care. However, please be aware there is an actual commitment involved with these adoptions. People wishing to adopt a soldier are expected to write at least one letter per week and send at least one care package per month. If that seems like too much for you, adoption might not be a good fit. But there are plenty of other ways you can make a difference. Even if it is only a one-time gesture, I can tell you from personal experience, it will mean the world to these amazing troops!
Visiting the US War Dogs Memorial in NJ – December 2006