Somebody Called Me A Patriot

The word stood out because no one had ever called me that before. Which was fine because I had always associated it with politics and I don’t like politics. I vote, but I don’t discuss it (except with those closest to me.) There’s so much animosity between sides, I just want to cry like that little girl in a battleground state who apparently had enough of the battle.

The only time I really heard the word used was when politicians were trying to out-patriot one another with photo ops. Or accuse someone else of not being patriotic enough if they disagreed with them. Which gave this word some negative baggage for me. And then this happened:

I said/ He Said

It was around Christmas and I bought some deployed troops coffee through Cup of Joe. Below is what I wrote and one of the responses I received.

Dear Soldier,  A cup of coffee is kinda small to be a present. So what I really want to give you is the certainty that you are not forgotten. And to know how grateful I am for your service. I’m from NYC and whether my day is crazy good or bad, I get to live it in peace. Your hard work and sacrifice gives me that gift. Thank you for all you do. I wish you a merry, happy and safe holiday.

Ms Gina, you are the reason we as service men and women, “Do what we Do.” It is close to the holiday season and home is soo far away. I work and live every day helping the Iraqi’s police and security become better. This effort is providing a safe and secure Iraq for the people. But living with the Iraqi’s as advisors comes with great risk. I am truly thankful for my fellow Patriots (you) who support the hard work we all are doing everyday. You are the reason I get up and Soldier on everyday! God Bless You and I hope you have a happy and safe holiday! Keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers. Army Strong! J___ , Captain, U.S. Army P.S. Your cup of coffee means more than you will ever know!

I told my buddy Andy that a soldier called me a patriot and my feelings about the word. He was surprised because he has very positive feelings about it. He got quiet for a moment and then explained that “patriot” doesn’t belong to any political party. He said, “It means you care about this country. You do. And you are.”

The talk

I don’t care if the troops I support vote the same as me or not. I care that they are away from their families and in harm’s way. I care that my daughter and I get to skip down the street without looking over our shoulders because of their service and sacrifice. That’s precious. I was in NYC on 9/11 and I will never forget what it felt like to walk down the streets that day.

That said, I was in a bar with a friend and found myself in a conversation I didn’t want to be in. I think liquor bottles should add that to their warning labels: consumption may cause birth defects and political debates.

He felt I was supporting war and that there should be no military. Well first of all, I am all for world peace. I would be thrilled if our troops only deployed for natural disasters. But under any scenario, I don’t see why you wouldn’t support the troops. Even if you disagree with a political action, there’s a difference between the war and the warrior. Our troops don’t decide where they go. We do. They have a civilian commander chosen by mostly civilians (active military = 1% of the population.) They go and do what this country says at tremendous personal risk and sacrifice to them and their families. If you don’t like what they’re doing, work to change it. But these are our sons and daughters. We have a duty to care. Also, I disagree with the thought that we don’t need a military.

Finally I said, “We both have a lot of passion for our respective beliefs. I’ve helped hundreds of people with my passion, what have you done with yours? Have you written one letter to your congressman? Shown that you care where our servicemen and women are? Done anything to promote world peace…ever?” There was silence. Some hurt feelings too. But we agreed that taking action was good and that we weren’t going to agree on most everything else.

Political Action

Tomorrow is Election Day. My political action will be to vote. Then I’m going to send a few cups of coffee to the troops. Because one reason I have the freedom to vote, a right so many people in the world are denied, is because our troops safeguard it. So I do this small kindness to honor that. And if that makes me a patriot, then that’s what I’m proud to be.

© Gina left the mall, 2012

13 thoughts on “Somebody Called Me A Patriot

  1. I truly appreciate that you have directed your passion to helping our military… I also loved reading your comments about how we as civilians choose whether or not our military is sent to war. I found your blog while I was researching “Adopt a US Soldier”. My daughter asked if I thought she should sign up and I had never heard of the organization. After reading what you had written, not only did she adopt a soldier, so did I.
    Thank you!

    • Stephanie, that’s wonderful news and means a great deal to me! As civilians, our actions and inactions not only determine if they are sent to war, but how they fare during and after. I’m very happy that two more soldiers will have higher morale, lower anxiety, less susceptibility to depression and be better able to focus on their jobs and staying safe because of you and your daughter. That also means they will return to their families in better shape. Your kindness will have a ripple effect and I sincerely thank you both for it!

  2. You are a patriot, because you are doing something for the country indirectly. By comforting someone who stands in the line of fire. I agree with this – “But we agreed that taking action was good and that we weren’t going to agree on most everything else.”
    Patriot has become a word manipulated almost as much as Religion. It is not a word though, it is a feeling which politicians have forgotten.
    and see how you have inspired others to take up the same thing 🙂
    carry on Gina, carry on 🙂

  3. Gina,

    As a retired veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I like to think that that the concept and effort of patriotism and being patriotic is not unique to one party or the other. Many people consider themselves patriotic for taking their hat off at the playing of the National Anthem or the saying the pledge of allegiance or thanking a service member who is in uniform. I agree with the Soldier who wrote you that you have taken it a step further with your efforts. Along with thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have received letters addressed to “Any Soldier” along with care packages, books, and such, I agree wholeheartedly that it is like a little Christmas whenever a care package or letter from home arrives. For a few minutes, opening that box or letter magically transports us to a tiny patch of home and we get to think happy thoughts and enjoy the fact that someone has thought of us.

    I am concerned that for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that they are again serving in a “Forgotten War”, given the unparalleled focus on Benghazi that has taken the eyes of the nation off of the tens of thousands serving every day in harm’s way as well as the tens of thousands who have sacrificed all or will live the rest of their lives with wounds both visible and invisible. The real challenge will be what we are doing for those same veterans and their families ten years from now when the trumpets of war have fallen silent.

    • I think you’re right that patriotism is not unique to any party. I had let my distaste for politics color my feelings. I hadn’t realized how much until I received this soldier’s note.

      And I share your concern for our troops. I truly hope they are not in a “Forgotten War.” But as you point out, the real challenge lies ahead. Thousands of young men and women have and will continue returning to civilian life shaped by this experience (if college can shape you, how much more so combat?) What’s the best transition for success? For managing both the visible and invisible wounds? I have to believe that greater understanding between the civilian and military worlds would be a step in the right direction. After all, whether we argue in bars or on political stages, ultimately we are all in this together.

  4. I want to take this moment to thank you for not only being a loyal reader of my site, but for all you do for our servicemen. You are a wonderful person.

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