As some of you know, my husband I "adopted" our mailman's son, Jimmy, who is serving in Iraq.
If you don't know, let me give you a little background:
My mailman, Jim, used to work for my dad years ago and so did my husband. It was a natural choice to write to Jimmy and send care packages, since we had a connection with his dad. I didn't know what to write in the first letter, never having met Jimmy, so I just rambled about what was happening in Rochester, the Lilac Festival, being at Lake Ontario, and ended by telling him I'm a writer and that my husband works for his family's restaurant, Schallers.
A month later, my husband comes home and says, "Guess who came to visit me today at work? Right from the airport and in his uniform?" I had no idea; he's had a lot of his employees go into the service after high school. Turns out, it was Jimmy! He was home for a two week leave and went right from the airport to Schallers because, as it turns out, he used to work there in high school!! My husband never connected Jim our mailman with Jimmy his former employee, even with the last names.
Apparently Jimmy was sitting in Iraq, thankful to get a letter even if it was from a stranger, and he almost fell over when he realized it was from David and me! He said it was the greatest thing, to get any letter, but to have that surprise was a real gift. He also said the soldiers love to get any mail at all so keep writing.
You need to know how exciting that was, to know that a simple (rambling) letter touched Jimmy, and his comment about how the soldiers love mail, to know why I did what I did yesterday.
I've been sending Jimmy packages with enough candy and treats to share, but felt like I wanted to do something else, so I yesterday I went to http://www.anysoldier.com/ to see if I could send a random package to any soldier.
Here's how it works: this organization has soldier contacts in Iraq and Afghanistan who volunteer to get packages addressed to "any soldier" and hand them out to fellow troops who don't get mail from home. (Read the website; there's a lot of info but it's really interesting.)
I used the "generate a random contact" and got a Marine in Iraq who has contact with about 250 males and 12 women. Yeesh, what must it be like to be a woman among all of those guys?
With that in mind, I packed a large box with girly stuff (addressed to Any Female Marine), taking tips from some of the lists made by other soldiers and seeing what's included in the pre-packed care packages you can buy. I put in shampoo/conditioner, body wash, a loofa, dental floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razors, ponytail holders, barrettes, a variety of feminine hygiene products, foot powder, pink & red nail polish (I am a toenail polish addict), pre-soaked and individually wrapped nail polish remover pads, nail files, nail clippers, tweezers, cotton swabs, gum, chocolate, handiwipes, granola bars, tea, cocoa, Oreos, goldfish crackers, Milano cookies, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, trail mix, and an Oprah magazine. Phew. It was FUN shopping!
I prayed over the items as I packed them, asking God to keep the soldier(s) who get these items safe and to watch over their families. I wrote a letter and, taking a suggestion on the AnySoldier site, included a self-addressed envelope and a few sheets of paper with a note to let her know if she needed anything else to let me know and I'd be happy to send another care package with specific items, but explaining that I didn't need or expect a response.
I'm sure at this time of year the soldiers are getting packages from home, and everyone is sending a little extra. But keep this site in mind, because the rest of the time I wonder how much mail or packages these soldiers get. And especially in Afghanistan. I was reading in "The Sandbox" a post from a soldier in Afghanistan who said that they feel like the American people have forgotten them, with all of the attention focused on Iraq. I'm going to find a contact in Afghanistan today.
For more information, visit http://www.anysoldier.com/.