Even The Storms Are Beige


sandstorm (Photo credit: bzo)

my marineMy Marine in the desert was tired of beige. The sand was beige. The tents, trucks, uniforms, even the storms, while tremendous to witness, were beige. When I asked him what he was missing, he said: color. Especially the green of nature. For a minute I thought about sending him a handful of grass and some fall leaves. Instead, I sent him 25 postcards of Central Park all at once (15 arrived on one day. The rest over the next year) He hung them up in his tent so they would be the first thing he saw every morning. I laughed at how excited he was to get them. He reminded me not to take the little things for granted. In fact, he asked me to notice and appreciate them for him. I promised I would. But every day is busy and after a while I noticed that I kept forgetting to notice. I felt bad about this unkept promise to a man I never met.

We “met” over coffee

My Marine, Gunnery Sergeant MZ, had signed up with Soldiers’ Angels to be adopted and was on the wait-list. Volunteers like me would send a letter or one-time care package to hold them over. I had sent him coffee and a mug and we wound up becoming pen pals. He was what some at Soldiers’ Angels would call my “unofficial.” That’s someone you support but not at the same commitment level of adoption which is one letter a week and one care package a month for the duration of deployment.

Little Is Big Day

To make up for my delay, I decided to appreciate as many little things as I could for a whole day. Here’s just the first two:

1. Hot shower

I usually turn on the water without thinking. But this morning as I paused to appreciate this act, a certain troop I helped came to mind:

“We spend most of our time in a very remote outpost living and working with the Afghan National Army, living a very meager existence.  We don’t have showers or running water. We live out of the back of our armored vehicles or from our rucksacks. We are very far from home. Anything you could provide my soldiers would be greatly appreciated.  Some of my men do not have families in the States who can support them.  Our communication back home is infrequent and unreliable. Letters and packages are our lifeline and the only way we know we are not out here alone.”

2. Waking my daughter up

This is usually a difficult task as my daughter is the U.S. Sleep Champion. And she only trains on schooldays. But this morning I thought of all my troops who were separated from their children. I remembered a female combat medic I wrote to with three kids. Her youngest was a little girl the same age as mine. They were both starting 1st grade. This combat medic would miss every wake-up struggle for the whole year and more. Then suddenly this difficult task felt like a gift. I get to do this in freedom and safety because other men and women are not doing it. This is part of what they sacrifice when they raise their hands to serve.

A promise kept

Little Is Big Day turned out to be very meaningful and sometimes emotional. But it helped me hit the reset button. So now even on busy days, I’ll take a moment to find a little something special around me. If you try Little Is Big Day, please let me know how it turned out. As for mine, I’ll tell you somewhere in an arid sea of beige, I made one Marine very happy.

© Gina left the mall, 2012

9 thoughts on “Even The Storms Are Beige

  1. It really is the little things they miss the most. Something that caught my attention was a blog post about making time to notice the little things. All too often we know the big things they miss. For instance, my husband will miss our daughters entire second grade year and our sons first year of preschool. He won’t even get the chance to meet our sons teacher. Christmas, my birthday, Sissy’s birthday, anniversary, new years, Valentines day… It’s easy to count those, but he also will miss our son learning to talk, the first time our daughter attempts to ride a bike without training wheels, my first attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner, a year of report cards and taking care of allergy ridden little ones. He will miss bake sales and going on walks at the park. He will miss pushing our kids on the swings and the quirky things our kids say. Soldiers don’t just miss the holidays, they miss the thousands of little things that make a family what it is. They miss those tiny things that make our families different. I get more choked up that my husband will miss awards assemblies at school than over missing Christmas. Christmas comes every year. How often does your daughter get straight As in the second grade? Ya know?

    • Thank you for this very thoughtful comment. I think you beautifully describe some of the “thousand of little things that make a family what it is” and that mean the world when you’re half a world away.

      When I got to know my adopted soldier’s wife is when it really hit me that the entire family serves. My soldier met his son Kyle on leave when the baby was 3 months old and got home just before Kyle’s 1st birthday. His wife would send me pictures or a note about something funny or new that Kyle did that day. First I’d smile then I’d think, okay…that’s another thing he missed. I started to feel the everyday impact of it all. I think it matters that non-military folks (like me) understand this. We should know what our troops and families sacrifice for us. So thank you again for sharing. And congrats to your daughter on the straight A’s because that’s just awesome.

  2. I think its so amazing what you are doing, your little contributions [ actually NOT so little but well thought out and full of meaning ] make the biggest difference here. I say I’m not deployed, I feel like compared to the places that my brothers and sisters have to endure being here in the “Capital” is a pretty cushy place – but the little moments you speak of? Its awesome to hear of the appreciation at the fact that we can NOT get those back. My daughters in college – but the moments mean just as much. She just got her dream job, she’s in her 3rd year and I haven’t been able to be a part of her new adult life yet. I just keep waiting and hoping that my plans at the end of this ‘adventure’ will be able to actually occur. Keep doing what you do… if more people did then the words “Support your troops” would mean something to me anymore. Too many people forget – after 10 years we are still doing this. But even if you don’t join the military you can at least attempt to learn from it, and you do. Which is much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by my own blog. Work has been busy and not much to share, but hopefully I’m joining the chapel to go to the Orphanage we adopted! I love the children here…

    • Firstly, thank you for your service. While you may have basic luxuries, like running water, Kabul (“the Capital”) still sounds pretty deployed to me.

      Congrats to your daughter on her dream job! You are right that every age has moments you want to be part of. I have no doubt that you will savor each one post-adventure. I see from your blog that your husband is also active military. Please extend my thanks to him and I appreciate all your daughter has sacrificed as well. It really is a family endeavor.

      I want very much for the words “support your troops” to have more meaning…to resonate beyond a parade or yellow ribbon. I think there are a lot of civilians who were like me before I began all this. Who have no idea what our troops endure. Or that we can have a tremendously positive impact on what that experience is like by doing just little (but not little) things. My hope with this blog is to spread that awareness. Thank you for your kind words about my efforts. They mean a lot.

      I can’t wait to read more in your blog about the orphanage you adopted. Many of my troops did their personal best to help the children around them. Their requests would be for children’s clothing or school supplies. I’m not surprised in the least that the heart dedicated to service, is the same one that takes action this way.

  3. I am tears after reading this. You are a wonderful writer and have a beautiful heart! Thank you for the support you give to our troops. I am the wife of a U.S. soldier who has been the beneficiary of gracious care packages from people he didn’t know, it was an enourmous blessing to him. You bless those troops more than you can ever know. Keep at it! I’ll definitely be posting soon about my own Little is Big Day. It’s a brilliant idea. It makes me think of the book by Ann Voskamp “Ten Thousand Gifts”. God bless you!

    • It’s great to hear that your husband has received support from people he didn’t know and that it made a difference for him. Even if we are strangers, we are really all in this together. Please tell your husband I thank him for his service and I’m grateful for all your family does as well. Thank you also for the kind words. I’m happy this post moved you and thrilled you will try Little is Big Day. I hope you have as good a day as I had.

    • Hi jfisher09, my name is Kyndal. I saw that you are the wife of a U.S. Soldier. I am a big fan and a big supporter and prayer warrior of the troops. I hope you won’t mind if I ask you this. Sometime when you get to talk to your husband, will you tell him that I say “Thank You” to him for his wonderful service to our country.

    • Heather, I’ve been trying to find the right words to respond to you but it’s not easy. I feel humbled because I do the easy part in all this and military families like yours do the hard part. So I will simply say that I am very touched and I thank you for this.

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