A Healthy Cigar

The man at the wooden table hand-rolled another cigar. I was the only non-smoker in the shop. Possibly ever. But I had discovered a health benefit to cigars and was on a mission. That mission brought me to a fancy cigar store uptown and to this altogether different one where I would receive an interesting offer.

I have no medical proof but…

My adopted soldier and a few other soldiers I wrote to loved cigars. Based on my years of no medical school, I decided that the emotional and physical benefits outweighed the nicotine negatives because:

1. Getting mail reduces stress, anxiety and a host of other bad things. Getting a care package with an item you love and miss ups those benefits.

2. Their current environment and/or air quality is worse than anything I could do. They were working near towns that burn trash in endless fires in long ditches, and breathing in fighter jet fuel, smoke from being mortared, etc.

Sounds like pickles

I pressed a buzzer to gain entry into the uptown cigar shop. The atmosphere was quiet and reverent. I was led to the walk-in humidor to contemplate my purchase. After a few minutes, Adam came to help me. I asked him what he recommended.

ADAM:  Does your friend like strong flavors?

ME:  I don’t know. We’ve never met. He’s my adopted soldier. Although he once mentioned something that kinda sounded like pickles…um gerkins. Does that sound familiar?

ADAM: Yes Gurkhas.  Do you want a box?

There is a wide price-point when it comes to cigars. I wound up getting a variety. As I only got four cigars, it was a small variety, but it’s the thought that counts. Adam kindly tossed in a cutter and a box to help me ship them and wished my soldier well.

We know it’s about your hair

The next time I went to a place that hand-rolled their cigars. I was a little shy to walk in because it felt like a clubhouse. But these guys were awesome and more than happy to help me.

Outside Martinez Cigar shop in NYC

As a gentleman thoughtfully chose cigars for my soldier, I kept walking in and out of the shop. Finally, one of the guys said,

We know what you’re doing. We know it’s about your hair. This is why our wives and girlfriends won’t hang out here. They don’t want their hair to smell like smoke

He was right. But in my defense, I had just gotten my belligerent waves blown-out and was pretty much having the best hair day of my life.

So they made me an offer. If I would sit there with them and smoke my first cigar, they would pay to get my hair redone. I wanted to be the cool chick that said yes and had a good story. But I’m me and I was already queasy from the smoke. A cigar would put me over the edge.

Before I left, they asked me to give my soldier their thanks. They also gave me a few cigars for free so he could share and hoped he enjoyed what they had picked out. I asked if they would tell my soldier themselves:

Staff and friends at Martinez Cigar send a message to my soldier in Afghanistan

Cigars in action

Each time I sent cigars to Afghanistan the soldiers loved them. They loved being able to take a break and to have this taste of home. The air around them changed for a few moments, infused with good memories. It brightened their spirits. My adopted soldier even saved one for when he came home on leave. His commute back was like Amazing Race with bullets. It involved many days and little sleep. At the airport, he met his infant son for the first time. Finally exhaustion kicked in and he slept for 12 hours and when he awoke,

“Of course everyone was still sleeping since it was 5am, so I made my dogs wake up and go for a walk with me. After that I tried waking up my wife and she begged me to let her sleep for another hour. So I went outside and smoked one of the cigars you sent me and just enjoyed the country morning.”

The following year when my adopted soldier returned from his deployment, I found out he brought back all the letters people had sent him. He had saved them because these letters from strangers meant something. Small things do when you’re deployed. His wife made me a beautiful scrapbook and I found out he saved every cigar band too. That may not be scientific proof,  but it’s proof enough for me that these cigars gave him a healthy morale boost. In a combat zone, that is very, very good for you.

My adopted soldier saved every cigar band from the cigars I sent. His wife put them in beautiful scrapbook she made me.

© Gina left the mall, 2012

27 thoughts on “A Healthy Cigar

    • Thank you Jon! The more I learned about our soldiers, the more amazed I was with them :) I’m also grateful for nice people like my cigar buddies that give me a little help along the way.

  1. Great article by the nicest, most selfless person I know. These cigars are just a fraction of what she has done for me and other Soldiers serving this great nation. It is hard to show how much I appreciate her hard work and countless efforts to support the troops. She sacrifices her own precious time just to make complete strangers smile. The impact a letter, picture, or a cigar can have when you’re on the other side of the country and away from all your loved ones is amazing. It takes a certain special person to demonstrate just how much they support and care for the Soldiers fighting over seas. I said it many times before, but I’m sure you do not hear it enough. Thank you G!

  2. My first deployment, I was 20 yrs old and it was during Desert Storm. My parents had put my address in the local paper. I got many letters from people I didn’t even know. It did raise my spirits. To know so many people supported what you do. It made me try that much harder to do the best that I could do for them. You are helping in ways you don’t even understand. Thank you.

  3. When I was serving in Afghanistan, my crew had a tradition of smoking cigars around the evening fire pit. Not a big smoker myself I smoke cigars only on special occasions, but every night in Afghanistan seemed like a special occasion, and it was a great group of guys and great conversation. I contacted my friends at Blanco Cigars and he sent me a box of Maduros that led to many fine evenings I will remember forever.

    • I think it’s great that Blanco Cigars did that. And even better that you and your crew carved out this special time for yourselves. I also wanted to thank you for your years of service and wish you the best on your new adventure of being Just Retired.

      • Thanks, Gina. For better or for worse I still carry on the fire pit tradition and cigars in my own backyard now, and always raise a glass and a smoke to my buddies who are still in harm’s way..in honor of their continued sacrifice.

  4. Hi Gina, I admire your passion for helping soldiers. I am a pacifist at heart, who would like to see our country scale back our military, huge expenditures, lives lost and actions around the world.
    In the end, kindness matters, good job. You almost made me want to adopt a soldier. brad

    • Hi Brad, I would be thrilled if world peace broke out and the only time our troops deployed was for disaster relief. I respect your feelings but I also feel it’s possible to support the warrior without supporting a particular action. After all, the troops have a civilian commander chosen by mostly civilians. (The active military is 1% of our population.)

      That said, I am happy that you liked the post. And almost wanting to adopt…well that feeling requires care and kindness too. I’m a big fan of both those things.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful reply Gina. Maybe we can respectfully disagree. For me, supporting troops means supporting the war machine in this country. If war weren’t “sold” so well, then maybe young people wouldn’t enlist and leaders would have to choose peaceful solutions. To more care and kindness.

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