Endings and Beginnings
As a volunteer with Adopt A Platoon, my holiday season begins in November. I start sewing holiday stockings and fill each one with necessities, candy and a small toy. I also sign cards and attach a candy cane to each one. Friends also joined in the fun this year and collected items for me to send. Thanks to their generosity, I sent boxes of filled holiday stockings to my twelve Adopt A Platoon soldiers in Iraq and also to a support hospital in Iraq. I also sent several boxes of cards and candy canes. I thought about our troops as I worked and filled the boxes and hoped that these gifts would bring comfort and cheer to them, especially to those in the hospital. I felt just like one of Santa's elves with every box I lugged into my post office.
All of our deployed troops are somebody's children, spouses, relatives or friends. Being separated from loved ones is always difficult for our soldiers. To be able to send a little holiday cheer to those who are sacrificing so much for us is something I can do to say "thank you".
This is my second year as a volunteer with Adopt A Platoon. The soldiers I supported last year have come home. Although my support officially ends when their deployment ends, I always offer them the choice to "keep in touch" or to move on. It is hard to say good-bye to them, but I do.
In December I received holiday cards from some of my former adopted soldiers. What a wonderful surprise! They all contained a few hand-written lines about what they have been doing since returning from Iraq. A few had also sent photos of them with their families. They all mentioned how great it felt to be "getting back to normal". For some that meant returning to college. For others it was the anticipation of attending college for the first time. One soldier was enjoying his retirement after many years of serving our country, including more than one deployment to Iraq. What he missed the most were the ordinary, every day things like seeing his kids off at the bus stop and just "hanging out" with them. Now his family was together again. That was the best gift of all.
The holiday season is a time of believing in happy endings and the kindness of strangers. I keep my holiday cards in a basket on the coffee table. The happy endings are in them, hand written. Soldiers will continue to come home to their families. Worry and uncertainty will be replaced with hugs and kisses and family celebrations.
And people like me will continue to send boxes of kindness to people we will never meet.