Letters to Iraq extend gratitude, hope

  • Published
  • By Douglas J. Pietersma
  • trategic Operations Center watch officer
In this day and age, the hand-written letter from home is a lost art. Pen and paper have been replaced by E-mails, cell phones, instant messages and video chats.

Despite being a lost art, every couple days, mail comes into the work center by the cart full. Most of the mail consists of packages with treats from home. Like kids in a candy store, a crowd surrounds each military member receiving a box to find out what's inside.

Any excess items from these packages is placed on a large table at the back of the room. Here is a table is called the Any Soldier Table although Airmen are also deployed here.

Recently, a care package came with an extra special gift: Thirty handwritten letters from home. The letters were not addressed to any specific individual, rather they were simply addressed, "Dear Soldier." All of them were handmade by school children and decorated with patriotic themes. The letters contained drawings and other unique decorations inside and out. The most striking component of each letter was a personalized message to an unspecified servicemember from the child who created it.

The most common message was a simple, but powerful concept of gratitude. While some of these children expressed gratefulness for the service and sacrifice of servicemembers, others expressed thankfulness for the freedoms and liberties that a military member is sworn to protect.

Another common topic in these letters was prayer. Many said, "I'm praying for you" and some said, "I pray for you every day." Many of these children seemed optimistic that the world will be a better place because of what military members do.

I know very little about the children who wrote those letters. I don't know their age, race, religion or social but none of that really matters.

What really matters to me is the fact that these letters came from the heart. These children were young, unquestionably genuine and emphatically patriotic. There were no politics in these messages, only the desire of these young citizens to do their part to encourage "soldiers" who they have never met.

I can't speak for every deployed individual, but I believe things like this are a huge morale booster. This is important because morale is a force multiplier enabling everybody, from the most junior military member to the highest-ranking commander, to get the job done.

These children's letters say something about the U.S. and more specifically about the people of our great country. Regardless of our differences, there is still an underlying foundation of patriotism. These children were obviously encouraged by parents, teachers or other role models to write these words of encouragement. If I could encourage citizens on the home front to do anything in support of military personnel, it would replicate the random acts of gratitude demonstrated by these children.