Pillow Talk

Andrew* is trying to get pillows and sheets for the 90 soldiers in his platoon because they have none. I said I’d help. That led to some interesting “pillow talks” with a soldier, a child, and a passionate “debater.”

The soldier is Dylan* and we’ve been friends for a while. I know that when it comes to deployment, accommodations vary. So I asked him about his personal worst and best. (*Names changed for privacy.)

No mint on your pillow here

DYLAN: The worst was either Columbia or Afghanistan in ’01. Iraq in ’03 was bad too. There were NO accommodations. Sleep where you fall and dig. Eat what you can kill, catch, or carry. Latrines??? Nothing. The best you could hope for (I deleted the rest of this sentence. I wish I could also delete Dylan’s colorful “no latrine” description from my brain.)  Ammo and other supplies, had to have air dropped. This caused a whole new set of problems…we weren’t the only ones that could see the plane or chopper coming. Had some hellacious firefights over resupplies!!

Best… Iraq 09-10 (OIF7) when you and I met!! We had living quarters, chow hall, internet and phone shacks, a small PX, and a gym. Still got rocketed and mortared a lot, but still nice to not have to (another colorful description that can be summed up: latrines = good.)

Night-lights are mandatory

To be clear, I was not buying 90 sets of twin sheets and pillows. I was getting two. Andrew had written to Soldiers’ Angels and they put the request out to the group. (So far, volunteers have signed up for all the pillows and 37 sets of sheets.)

As I headed to the store, my daughter Sofia informed me that I had to send them a night-light too. “Mommy! You can’t make them sleep in the dark! The dark is scary!” Technically, she has a point. I imagine it can be scary out there in the dark. But if I told her the soldiers probably didn’t need this, I know she’d say, “but what if one does?” Seeing her concern and how she relates it to her own world and what makes her feel vulnerable, touched my heart. The nightlight was in.

My options were Sponge Bob floating in a bubble of water, mermaids, or princesses. I went with Sponge Bob because had the edgier look in his eyes. I also got coffee. After all, with all this newfound comfort, these soldiers may need help waking up.

Pillows, sheets, "mandatory" Sponge Bob  night-light and coffee

Pillows, sheets, that’s Sponge Bob sleeping on top, and coffee getting weighed at the UPS store. No way to smush that into my usual flat-rate box.

More than talk

Leslie at Soldiers’ Angels had shared Andrew’s request and was keeping track of the responses. So I let her know how many pillows and sheets I picked up. We got to chatting and I found out:

1. She is the wife of a disabled vet.

2. She does a lot of volunteer work at Soldiers’ Angels.

3. She got into a “debate” with a gentleman at Walmart and is now writing 4,000 letters to deployed troops to prove him wrong.

Number three took me by surprise. Leslie explained that she was wearing her Soldiers’ Angels t-shirt as she shopped in Walmart. A woman approached her and started asking questions. Leslie was happily answering when a gentleman chimed in, “They don’t want letters, all they want is stuff. Letters don’t make a difference.” Leslie asked him why he had that perception. He didn’t have an answer. He just kept repeating his assertion.

I know, as Leslie does, that a letter can make all the difference in the world. It can transport you and lift your spirits. A letter can be carried with you and offer irrefutable proof that you are cared for and not forgotten. Whether our troops sleep on a bunk or in the dirt, whether they have bedding or nothing, that’s knowledge that brings comfort.

The, “all they want is stuff” part bugged me. These are our young men and women in harm’s way. Not Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka (the girl who wants it all and sings, I want it now!) The number one item I’ve seen requested is: anything. Because any little thing is appreciated. They’re in a combat zone. They don’t have access to the every day things we take for granted. Chips, soap (for those in remote areas) a cup of coffee. These are touches of home that mean a great deal. And when there are specific needs or group requests like Andrew’s, I know exactly what the motivation is: they want to help support their fellow troops any way they can.

Leslie’s debate went in circles until she asked this gentleman what she could do to change his mind.

GENTLEMAN: Nothing!

LESLIE: You tell me how many letters you want me to write. I will write them and show you the response and I will change your mind.

GENTLEMAN: 2,000

LESLIE: I’ve hit 2,000 in one year before. So why don’t we make this interesting? Let’s say 4,000.

GENTLEMAN: I don’t think you can do it.

LESLIE: You’re on!

She has been doing it. To cheer her on or check the countdown, go to her facebook page: 4,000 Letters From Home. The deadline is December 31, 2013. I look forward to this gentleman starting the New Year with a new perspective.

Almost bedtime

The bedding care package is on its way to Afghanistan. I hope Sofia’s nightlight makes them smile. And since I enjoyed the talks the pillows started, I figured I’d let Andrew have the last word by sharing the last line of his request:

Anything will be cherished. Thank you.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

26 thoughts on “Pillow Talk

  1. This is great. I served one year overseas (Gitmo, 1975-76) during my Navy days, and I know how precious a note or letter from ANYONE is. Obviously, that “passionate debater/gentleman” never served in the military or spent an extended time away from home and loved ones! Bravo for the terrific effort you are putting forth, and I’d like to help. I can’t send 4,000 letters, but I could write some. I know there are websites for “write to a soldier/sailor/airman” options. I think I’ll find one – or if you have addresses for units anywhere and would like to share them, I’d like to write.

    • Thanks! And thank you for your service! I’m guessing you are right about the Gentleman’s background. I’m really looking forward to him losing this debate. As for 4,000 letters…there’s no way I could do that either. But Leslie is on a mission!

      I think it’s wonderful that you’d like to write. Soldiers’ Angels has a Letter Writing Team (Leslie is on it. No surprise there.) I also love TLC (one-time letter or care package) I highly recommend it. Also, in the Ways To Make A Difference page, I have info and links on any of the charities that I or my readers have experience with. Take a look and see if there’s something right for you 🙂 You can go to the header or click here: https://ginaleftthemall.com/make-a-difference-2/

    • Soldiers Angles. Ck out the site. You can receive names for ths group. I’ve been with them over 3 years…. Best feeling when I get free mail.

      • Thanks Arlene! Links to Soldiers’ Angels are within the post and in the Ways To Make A Difference page.

        Also, for readers that don’t know, “Free Mail” is when the troops write you back. They don’t need a stamp from a combat zone. They write the words “Free Mail” where the stamp would be. And it is pretty special to find that in your mailbox 🙂

  2. I cannot tell you how I felt the first time I read that a soldier was sleeping on his laundry bag because he didn’t have a pillow! That’s enough to make a mom lose her mind. HA. I write lots of TLC letters (one time communication with a soldier) and I always tell them to let us know if they need anything because Soldier’s Angels are MacGyvers and we can make it happen.

    Thanks for all you do. Right now I’m shopping for some colorful sheets for my soldier – – and a pillow of course!

    • Lol…Suzanne, I know! My Mom brain (and heart) often has the same reaction. I love your MacGuyver description. It’s perfect 🙂 And I think your next care package will make your soldier happy day & night.

      Thank you for all you do as well!

  3. LOL someones grumpy because HE didn’t get a letter. I used to love those letters. I remember seeing a news report where this gentleman played Taps off his balcony to the sunset in his support of the troops. I wrote him a thank you card because it touched me, he wrote me back. That card is still with me in my memory book from that deployment. I loved getting cards, just the written word and a piece of mail is SO much more than an email. Though I do love my email too 😉 Cute on the sponge bob! lol, they WILL enjoy that, you do turn into a little kid sometimes with the fun stuff.

    • Well, that only shows how much your letters mean to him! 🙂 Since you are both in the military, you understand the impact of mail more than most. I love that you wrote to the gentleman who played taps. He must have been so delighted to know that his heartfelt actions reached you. And I love that you saved his response. It really is amazing to me how these small kindnesses can lift our spirits. Glad you like Sponge Bob. A “boring” night-light was not even open to discussion…lol.

      • Oh heck no! lol we also loved those crazy holiday packages with Easter ears, st paddy’s hair, valentine heart antennas. It’s like any excuse to drop some stress. 😀 Have a fab day!

  4. My sweetheart is stationed in a place right now that has the “regular” mail service stopped, due to increased terror threats. I had attempted to send a “HUG in a box” package to him, & it is now being sent back to me because of this. We’ve been able to keep up through emails, but it’s still hard, knowing he’s in one of those places where they don’t have basic amenities able to come through.

    I am going to be looking into the Soldier’s Angels, & see if we have a croup up here in ND. If not, well, I might just start one!
    Thanks so much for this post! 🙂

    • I’m sorry the terror threats are higher where he is. That can’t be easy. I had a Marine tell me once that he thought it was harder on his family than him. “I’m highly trained and I don’t worry about me.” I hope things calm down soon and that hugs, and other essential items, can find their way to him.

      And I’m glad you’re checking out Soldiers’ Angels. I’ve met some amazing people and got some good things done as an “angel” 🙂 I have the link and some info about them in the first section of the Ways To Make A Difference Page: https://ginaleftthemall.com/make-a-difference-2/

      Please tell him I thank him for his service. And I thank you for the support you give him.

  5. One who judge…. obviously never received a letter at a time when they were low. My husband serves on a submarine, and one of the things a wonderful wife did was get a group together to focus on the single sailors. And when they came back their gratitude was immeasurable. What a wonderful cause ❤

    • I agree with you about the judging! And I think it’s terrific that that wife thought of the single sailors. Being remembered and knowing you matter to someone, are simple but powerful things. I’m glad you and your husband have good people like that around you. And I thank you both for you service.

  6. I have 51 months in OIF and OEF since 2002. I know the impact of real letters has changed since there are so many more amenities available downrange, but there is nothing like receiving a care package from a group of young kids to brighten the day when it is filled with their hand made cards and letters. If it were not for those I would never have learned of the dangers of the dreaded exploding wombat, which is a deadly cross between a beaver and a bear. Those letters make an impact and they get passed around from person to person.

    • Thank you for your service. And thank you for making me aware of the dreaded exploding wombat. I can only hope that they are not indigenous to NYC because we already have enough to deal with 🙂 I’m glad there are more amenities. With the people I’ve supported, there’s been a big range. Especially when it comes to internet connection. But I’m also glad the letters get passed around, extending the power of kindness even further.

  7. Letters do make a difference! Anything done out of kindness makes a difference. Yay for people like her and like you! 🙂

  8. Some of my worst memories are things my brother told me about conditions he suffered under while serving in Korea. The cold, the hunger, sleeping on the ground, the frost-bitten toes and fingers, the body aches. Anything done to provide some comfort for the troops-physical or psychological-is truly a godsend.

    • NP,
      I’m sorry this brought up those memories. And even more sorry that your brother went through it all to begin with. I hope seeing the comfort we try to send today, gives you some comfort. If I could send mail back to the 1950s to reach him, I would.

  9. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, my father was 18 years old. He used to tell us stories about being in solitary confinement in a prison camp in Spain…lost his teeth and nearly starved to death. It was difficult for me to imagine him, living under those conditions, especially being so young. I wish we didn’t have such a thing as war. It’s so sad to think of young men and women having to serve a country that, in the end, doesn’t seem to appreciate them. I find this extremely frustrating, especially after having worked in the VA system. Thanks for your efforts in bringing the comforts of home to their lives, Gina.

    • HF, what a horrible and heartbreaking experience your father went through. It is difficult to grasp at any age. Knowing what kind of physician you are, I am sure the young men and women you treated at the VA felt cared for and appreciated. I am always hoping for an outbreak of world peace, but until then, I will do the small things I can to bring comfort to those who serve.

  10. Wow what a story. Hi Gina it’s Kyndal. Hey Gina sometime if you get to email or talk to Andrew, will you tell him that I say “Thank You” to him for his wonderful service to our country, and that he has my total support and my prayers.

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