Free Mail

What do a soldier in Kandahar and a senator in Washington have in common? If you guessed Free Mail, you’re right. For politicians, it’s called franking privileges. The purpose is to let the folks back home know what they’ve been up to. For deployed troops it’s called, “Hey, It’s The Least We Can Do.” Well…that’s just what I call it. The official name may be different.

The best things in life are free

Free Mail from deployed troops

Getting Free Mail is a heartwarming surprise. The overwhelming amount of contact I have with troops is over email. Then there are many times where I don’t hear back (which is okay, I have no expectations.) But to open your mailbox and find something so thoughtful and from so far away? It’s like finding treasure. This past Friday I got a postcard from my Marine and it made my day. Well, since I’m still smiling now, it’s more than a day.

What technology can’t touch

A World War II vet told me how he’d have to wait months for any word from home. Skype beats that hands down. And if I had to handwrite this post to each of you individually, I’d have a carpal tunnel relapse for sure. But with all due respect to the internet, it is nice to hold an actual letter in your hands. When I get one, I’m excited and I wonder, is this a little bit of what mail call is like for our troops?

I’ve saved every letter service members have sent me. Many have told me they save all the mail they receive. Here is a small part of one soldier’s letter that I want to share with you for two reasons.

1. His handwriting is beautiful.

2. This is the only time I’ve EVER had to do research to respond. He wrote deeply and thoughtfully about freedom, American History, and quoted Thomas Paine. So I brushed up on a few things before I wrote back. The last time I covered this material was in junior high school.

This is the full Thomas Paine quote he included in his letter:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine quote in soldier's letter

Reading that quote in a letter from a soldier in a combat zone gave those words an emotion and meaning that didn’t occur for me in junior high. I was very moved. Then very grateful that he gave me this moment. Amazing what you can get for free.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

21 thoughts on “Free Mail

    • Thank you. The rest of his letter was just as elegant. This soldier was born in Texas, raised in various South American counties, then returned to the States. He had a lot of passion for American freedom and history. I thought it was interesting that his perspective included looking at it from afar as well as belonging to it.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Too often the voices of our servicemen and women are not heard over the noise of daily life in America. We need to hear their voices, to be reminded of their sacrifice. May he come home safe and soon.

    • “The noise of daily life” is part of what I mean by “the mall” in the blog title. I think it’s easy to get caught up in everyday stuff and not connect the freedom we enjoy with the young men and woman who serve and sacrifice to defend it. I am honored to help be a voice for them. And I wish this soldier the warmth and safety of home as well.

      • Well I am happy to have found your blog. As a woman with no previous connection to the military who went on to marry a marine, I appreciate your efforts. It is unfortunately easy to enjoy the freedoms without thinking about the men and women who sacrifice so much to maintain that freedom. Thank you. 🙂

  2. E-mail messages seem so cold and impersonal compared to a letter. A letter is a keepsake, a living memory. It’s like the difference between a store bought gift and something someone has made with their own hands. And in the case of this particular soldier, one can tell by his beautiful handwriting the sincerity and depth of his feeling and belief.

    • NP, “keepsake, a living memory” is a perfect description. Seeing someone’s individual handwriting versus the uniformity of Helvitca or New Times Roman, holding a letter they once held, it all feels much more personal than clicking open my inbox. I also feel his handwriting style was a beautiful and perfect match for his words.

  3. I use to have penpals when I was younger and I just loved to receive letters from around the world, it’s much more personal to feel that someone has sat down and taken the time to put pen to paper than sending a quick email. Although technology has helped us all so much these days. I also like the idea of free mail too.

    That soldiers writing is absolutely beautiful and enjoyed the quote too.

    • RPD,
      I can just imagine how nice it was to receive each one, with postmarks from far-off places. Almost all of my pen pals are really e-pals so the free mail is pretty special. Glad you liked the soldier’s letter. He gave me such a nice moment, I wanted to share it 🙂

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