Coffee Can’t Cure Everything

When someone asks me about sending troops coffee, care packages, or letters, I share ideas that have worked or went horribly awry and should be avoided at all costs. Either way, I’m helping. When I’m asked to support troops in areas I’m not so familiar with, I do my best to refer the person to organizations, blogs, or anyone I think may help with forward motion. However, sometimes I get a question that’s just beyond my caffeinated or handwritten powers.

Catch-22

A young woman reached out to me. Her friend is in the reserves and their unit is being treated unfairly. Note that I do not identify the branch of service. Also note that “treated unfairly” is an incredible understatement and purposefully vague. Why? Because revealing details would be the opposite of help. (A) The troops love their unit and don’t want to publicly trash it (B) higher-ups would not take kindly to this and (C) “repercussions” are a reality on some level and why go there and make things worse?

So my first suggestion of, “write to a congressman” went out the window once the ABC’s were explained to me. Undaunted, I asked her, “who speaks for the reserves?” I wondered if there were some high-level person that was an advocate for these men and women. Maybe we could write to this person privately. She could not find anyone. Next thought: maybe fellow troops could advise. Let’s write a letter to Stars & Stripes describing the problem (without identifying the unit) and ask how current reservists or vets would handle the issue.

But describing details would help identify the unit plus make the young woman feel that she was betraying her friend’s confidences. I pointed out the conundrum:

How can anyone help if you don’t tell them what’s wrong? Even if we assume good faith, like it’s a bureaucratic red tape issue and not something purposefully or willfully wrong, there’s no way to find a solution without stating the problem. You can’t reach out to the Dept of Defense and say, “Something, somewhere, is amiss. Please look into it. That is all.” With no information, you’re not even giving someone the chance to resolve the issue.

A smaller cure

When I initially spoke to the young woman her voice was trembling because she was so upset. As I came to understand the situation, I became hurt and angry on behalf of these troops as well. So when I ran out of ideas, I apologized. I felt bad that I could not think of one viable way to fix things.

She surprised me by saying I did help. Because I tried, I cared, and I gave her the opportunity to vent, she felt a little better. I’m sure in a much bigger way, she gave the same kind of help to her friend.

So while coffee or the other small gestures are not a cure, they can do one thing—assure someone in a tough spot that they are not alone. Sometimes all you can do is help someone get through one moment to the next. Sometimes, that’s everything.

coffee cup with bandaid

© Gina left the mall, 2014

13 thoughts on “Coffee Can’t Cure Everything

  1. I’m sure you get this all the time, so I apologize in advance if I’ve missed this answer somewhere, but where specifically can I go to adopt a soldier? It’s been on my heart to do so for a long time, to single out one in particular and be able to focus on them and “spoil” them, but I don’t even know where to start.

    • Farrel, I think you have a beautiful heart and I’m very happy to answer your question! I have specific information and links in the Ways To Make A Difference page about adoption and other types of support. You will find different charities, a short note about my experience with them, as well as some reader recommendations.

      You can get get to this page from the nav bar up top or here is the url: https://ginaleftthemall.com/make-a-difference-2/

      So take a look and if you have more questions, please feel free to ask! Thank you for doing this!

      • This is PERFECT! Thank you! I’m going to sleep on it and either go with Soldiers’ Angels or Adopt A US Soldier. I can’t wait! I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

        • Farrel it’s a great idea to adopt a US Soldier. I really like your thoughts. but always keep in mind whenever you going to send care packages for him, is that send according to soldiers requirement or location where he is deployed. Like Gina said if you haven’t any any idea you can visit her link below. But always send important & necessary things, don’t send useless things.

          • That’s a good point. Of course, one soldiers’ “useless” may be another’s “necessity” 🙂 I once sent a soldier who was a big football fan a child’s tabletop football game—basically a tiny goal post with suction cups and you flick the “ball” in. I included a 2 inch trophy. It was a hit and that helps morale. Of course, before I get creative, I ask the servciemember what they want/need/miss. Someone in a remote combat outpost has more limited food options than someone at a big base. They may also have less hygiene items (never pack hygiene and food in the same box!) Are they someplace warm or cold? So asking and a little common sense are always a good idea. Luckily, there are many resources for lists of commonly desired and yes, USEFUL, items.

  2. You probably had thought of this, but I’m wondering why JAG wasn’t brought into it, even if for just consultation? We used them for an outside issue that they couldn’t get involved in, but they gave suggestions on how best to resolve the issue. Because you are their “client” they can’t give out the info once you talk with them. They may not be able to help, but they could at least point you in the right direction?

    I can’t tell you how much better it feels to have someone at least attempt to help! You can only have so many people say “I can’t help” before think you’re going insane. Keep up the good work – even if only as an ear. 🙂

    • Often overlooked is the IG that can also help when you are looking for where to go. Also for the Reserves, Military One Source is an often overlooked resource. Depending on the situation.

      • Thank you both for these suggestions! I’m not sure if they have already been tried but I will certainly pass them along. I’m grateful for these comments and the others because it will show the unit that many people care. Thank you for your help!

    • You are very right. It IS a great place to start. And even though I was frustrated by my lack of a “solve,” I’m grateful that we can always do SOMETHING for each other. Once action is taken, you never know how far or wide it will resonate.

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