A hockey team can kick butt in a combat zone. I have proof.
It all started when I wanted to do something special for my adopted soldier. He was in Afghanistan. His area had been in the news a lot and none of it was good. Then I found out he would be going home on leave and meeting his son, baby Kyle, for the very first time. Yes, that’s a happy thing. But I thought, this is his 3rd combat deployment, he knows a lot about war. What does he know about being a dad? He’s going to hold his son in his arms and then turn around and go back there? As the mother of a young child, I felt pre-hurt for him. I decided that this situation called for more than canned ravioli.
I tried to make him a Ranger fan
I found out the one sport he loved was hockey. I tried to make him a NY Ranger fan because that was convenient for me. No way. His heart belonged to the Phoenix Coyotes.
So I went on eBay and got him a Coyotes hockey puck and some trading cards. Nothing expensive. It’s the thought, right? But when I held them in my hands, they didn’t seem up to the morale-challenge I knew was looming.
We get a lot of requests
I went on the Coyotes website and saw they had a variety of charitable endeavors. Some involve supporting the troops. I thought maybe they could help me. Then I read that they receive a lot of requests and cannot fulfill them all. I decided to try anyway and wrote the team. I confessed my attempt to lure my soldier to the Rangers and how he stayed true to the Coyotes. Told them about baby Kyle. Mentioned the puck and cards and asked for their help. I asked for, “a program or anything at all really.” I just wanted him to have a touch of home waiting for him in Afghanistan. At at time when I knew it would be hard for him to be far from home. They wrote back that they’d be happy to help me.
Weeks go by
After the commute from hell (think “Amazing Race” with bullets) my soldier makes it home to his family and meets baby Kyle. I still haven’t received anything from the Coyotes. I’m not sure how long things take on their end. I just know that mail takes about two weeks to get from Manhattan to his corner of Afghanistan. If I add his time at home and his long commute back, I’ve got two weeks left. I send more emails to the Coyotes. I try to ignore how annoying I must be.
Not a foam finger
Lovely Maggie from the Coyotes who had been enduring my emails, wrote to say they had sent something and could I please let her know when I received it (it had to come to me, you don’t give out your soldier’s info.)
The package was soft. I thought maybe it was a foam finger or a hat. As I opened it, all that mattered to me was that the team he loved, from a place he loved, cared enough to do something. Anything. Then I pulled out… a team jersey autographed by all the players!!! I wrote Maggie back with tears in my eyes.
Don’t send it
Some friends told me not to send it. It was too valuable. Just send a picture of it. I told them the real value was that this was something he could hold in his hands that said people cared. As I shipped it I hoped that it wouldn’t be lost. Or blown up. Their supply and mail convoys had been attacked recently. Or stolen. Some outside contractors were caught stealing care packages meant for soldiers.
Back at work
When he got back, he sent me the longest email. His wife sent lots of pictures, especially him and baby Kyle together. This is part of what he wrote:
“….It was really hard to get on the plane to come back. You think it would be easy since this is like the 10th time I have had to leave, whether it be a deployment or an Army school. But this time was the worst, now I’m leaving 2 people I love the most.”
No. I didn’t think it would be easy. But I didn’t tell him that. Two days later, he had mail call.
Phoenix Coyotes Win
“…..I was so surprised when I opened the box (more like in shock) I can’t believe you wrote the team and they sent something. Thank you so much!!! I will write an email to Maggie tomorrow. I will also get some pics and send them to you. Thank you for the puck and the cards…… I still can’t believe it. I will write you more tomorrow when I get back from mission. P.S. Thank you again”
For privacy, and general OPSEC/PERSEC (operational security and personal security) guidelines, I crop the pics of him. But I assure you that he is beaming at a time when he never expected to. He called his wife and she was happy to hear his news and how it lifted his spirits. She wrote and thanked me for contacting the team.
Mail is a morale boost. Mail reduces stress and helps stave off depression and anxiety among other things that combat can bring on. The better frame of mind our deployed have, the better they can focus on their jobs and coming home safe. That day, the Phoenix Coyotes scored a win in an away game when it was really needed.
I joked with my soldier that it was “all downhill from here” because the next box would be canned ravioli. But he knew that packed alongside those cans, or whatever I sent, would always be my heartfelt hopes and prayers for him. That’s a win too.
© Gina left the mall, 2012