What are the chances?

What are the chances of reading an article online and then randomly “meeting” the writer in Iraq a few months later? Apparently, 100% because it happened to me with a deployed troop.

6 out of millions

I had just adopted a soldier and realized…I don’t know anything about soldiers. So I thought it might be a good idea to read some stories or articles written by troops. A quick search got me millions of results and I randomly chose six. Clearly, this was not exhaustive research. I just wanted to get a sense of what deployment was like for our troops. To understand a little how they felt when going through it.

A few months later, I started doing Cup of Joe (COJ) a wonderful program where you send a cup of coffee with a message to deployed troops. COJ distributes them randomly to any troop that signs up. It costs $2, many of them email back a “thank you,” and there’s a pen pal option.  I met Jim when I sent out a few COJs that Christmas.

ME:  Dear Soldier, A cup of coffee is pretty small to be a present. So what I really want to give you for Christmas 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. Gina

JIM:  That was about the sweetest sentiment I have ever received. I will copy this and save it for Christmas’s in the future. I truly appreciate your gesture and message. May Christmas find you with happiness, love and always security. Warmest of regards Jim Martin

I am using Jim’s name with his permission. Normally I don’t use full names because of privacy and/or security. He was a Senior Medical NCO for a Heavy Brigade Combat Team. When I told him I was a writer, he mentioned that had always been a dream of his. In fact, he had even gotten something published online once. I asked for the link. When I got it, I realized it was one of the six that I had read!!  Six articles out of millions…. thousands of deployed troops and my coffee finds him??  I smiled and laughed at this wonderful surprise. I had loved the emotional honesty in his words. “Meeting” the man who wrote them made it even more special. This is the article: Honor Our Sacrifice


Along with a very nice “small world moment,” I got the pleasure of getting to know Jim. What our troops do, endure and brave is pretty amazing.  What are the chances we can do something meaningful in return with a $2 investment?  I’m happy to say the odds on that are also 100%.


© Gina left the mall, 2013

30 thoughts on “What are the chances?

  1. Funny thing. I never tire of reading your stories. I have ghosts from my service as you know from my replies and my praise of you. Every now and then I get the same goosebumps of pride that I get when the National anthem plays. Have always had that gift from childhood. Your blog takes me back to the good things I experienced and makes it easier to accept the rest because I know there were people like you writing and showing support for me and my brothers and sisters.

    Thanks so much for your gifts because they also have a positive impact on we veterans because we know our younger brothers and sisters are in good hands.


    • Mike,
      I am thrilled and honored that some of my words help you recall good experiences and ease the bad ones (that gives ME goosebumps.) I do hope that other vets reading these posts can feel the support that myself and many civilians have expressed here.

      And I’m very glad that you have not tired of my stories 🙂 I promise to do my best to keep things that way!

      • Gina,

        Today is the anniversary of the Challenger explosion. On that particular day I was doing Army Full Honor Funerals in Arlington National Cemetery. We had 7 that day. A normal day was one possibly two. Following the incident was an investigation. This went on for a few months. In May , I think we did the cermony for the crew. If you ever travel to Arlington. There is a cul de sac on the backside of the Tomb of The Unkowns. In the middle of the cul de sac is the Mast of the Maine. ( It sank in Havana Harbor leading to the Spainish-American war.) There is a side walk from the mast leading directly towards the Amphlitheater and Tomb. Just as the sidewalk ends, off to one side is the marker for the crew of the Challenger.

  2. Wow Gina! What a great experience. I now Kim and the others you correspond with appreciate you taking this time to think about them. I know many of our soldiers will say it is their job to do what they do, but I know it is much more than that. They are willing to put thier life on the line, lives on hold and sacrifice time away from the comforts we enjoy every day. That is a powerful gift to those of us who enjoy the freedom it creates. Any opportunity to thank them cannot be missed.

      • Joe,
        I knew what you meant 🙂 And yes, many troops I’ve had contact with tell me they’re “just doing their job.” But what their Service truly entails goes far beyond that description. Yet they are grateful for the smallest kindness in return– a cup of coffee, a few thoughtful words, a chance to hear their name at mail call….

        I’m grateful that COJ created such an easy way to show appreciation and feel connected to our troops. Not everyone likes to handwrite letters and mailing care packages does require some time and effort. But $2 online and a note? That’s an opportunity not to be missed 🙂

  3. Wow…a sign that you were meant to have this connection. Let Jim know that his article was fantastic. I’d love to see more articles like that. And, thank you for being a bridge that allows us to look into the lives of soldiers.

    • I sent Jim this link and told him to check out the comments. He is happy that I shared our story and his work. Sadly, I don’t think he can write more until he retires or his job changes drastically. Perhaps, I can cajole some other soldiers I know to write 🙂 And I am very happy to be a “bridge.” Thank you for reading both here and in Jim’s world.

  4. What a cool coincidence, Gina! Jim’s article gave me the chills; I wonder what happened to that little baby. As a physician, I feel such compassion for human beings, and think it’d be extremely difficult to turn anyone who needed help away. Jim and his medical colleagues did what was right. War doesn’t make anyone less of a human, and it’s good to know that there are people like Jim who get that.

  5. I came across the COJ program via an advertisement on Facebook. I send something when ever possible and have made some pretty amazing friends by replying to those pen pal requests. It brightens my day knowing that a simple cup of coffee and note let our troops know we are thinking of them. I also participate in the Angels for Soldiers program and really enjoy writing letters and sending care packages to my adoptees. It is just a wonderful feeling knowing a simple act of kindness means a lot to somebody sacrificing so much for our freedom.

    • It funny how that works…you set out to do something kind for someone else and what you get back is greater than what you give:) Although, as I’m sure you’ve seen, the troops don’t see it that way. You send a letter, they think it’s gold. Thank you for doing all that you do!

  6. Hi Gina, my name is Kyndal. I just read Jim’s article and I thought that it was a wonderful article, sometime if you get to talk to Jim, will you tell him that I said a a big “Thank You” to him from me for his wonderful service to our country, and that I said that his wonderful service to our country is very much appreciated, and that I’m sending him a big salute his way, and that he has my 100 and 110% support and my prayers. Oh and that I am grateful for his service to our country. Thanks Gina, I am a big fan and a big supporter, and prayer warrior of and for our Troops and our Veterans!!! They are my very very favorite and very very special Heroes!!!
    Our Troops and our Veterans biggest fan, supporter and prayer warrior,


  7. I have often given to COJ at least once a month,and I proudly have two sons serving, one Marine, one Navy..this is one of the best causes I know. My Marine loves coffee and I hope he is taking advantage of this while he is in Afghanistan. Not enough people support our troops, including our current administration. I pray they all come home safe and I pray that more people open their eyes to what these men and women do for our country.

    • “Hi ellie, I just want to tell you that your two son have my 100 and 110% support and they will be in my prayers. I support our Troops supporter 100 and 110%
      Our Troops supporter and prayer warrior,


    • Ellie,
      I would like to thank your sons for their service and your entire family for all you do. Not everyone sees the difficult reality for our troops and the every day impact on the families. But I suspect many people are unaware versus uncaring. I say this because whenever I’ve shared stories in “real life” people would be moved. I started this blog in the hopes of increasing the connection. In hopes that others would feel as I did once I became aware.

      I couldn’t agree more with you about COJ. They have made taking genuine action as simple as a few clicks. The fact that they made it easy for the troops to send a quick thank you (whether or not they become pen pals) is amazing as well. Because that thank you doesn’t come from The Military. It comes from Jim or Josh or Meagan. Somehow, making it personal makes the impact and connection even greater.

      And I share your prayer for their safe return home. Every one of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s