As many of my family and close friends know, I have joined the ranks of the caring men and women who have military pen pals currently serving tours in Iraq. Through Twitter, I learned of Email Our Military (@MailOurMilitary), a volunteer service that grew out of a national security measure that banned all mail addressed to “Any Serviceman.” I took on two pen pals. We’ve been exchanging emails for about two or three weeks now.
For security reasons, I cannot go into details about these two service people or the content of our emails. But I do have a lot to say about writing and using our hobby for good things. If you are a writer, like me, why not take on a pen pal? You can send fiction, poetry, your shopping list, whatever. But you shouldn’t write ‘anything.’ Let me explain.
A controversy seems to be stirring on Twitter. One of my online contacts, a pretty staunch conservative as far as I can tell, appears to have publicly criticized the eMOM program. I didn’t bother to look up all the entries because I want to assume the best in everyone. The best I am assuming for the critic is this: Perhaps he is, at heart, worried that some Viet Nam throwback liberal will get an eMOM pal and spew vitriol about the war and politics. The concern is that any serviceman who gets such an email can be put in a diminished psychological state, and therefore be put in danger. The critic may also worry about how ‘regular’ people may not be trained to deal with the stress that comes along with being deployed in a war zone, and that well-meaning writers, hawk or dove, can say the wrong thing and amplify the stress.
I’m hoping the eMOM people will see this post and respond with their own views, because they are the experts. I’m not. I’m just a peppy person who thinks I could brighten someone’s day, even with my plain picked-fence descriptions of daily life in the ‘burbs. I am also, by chance, a person who has seen a lot of trauma in her life and feels strong enough to listen if my penpals need me to. Any person who has ever been a friend to anyone else in life can do that.
I’m a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ who writes poetry and hates sitting in church. I breast fed my children and carried them around in slings and am married to a person with a PhD in Philosophy. Those few facts should give you enough ammo to make up all the stereotypes you want about me and my political beliefs. It doesn’t matter. I have enough of a brain to realize that I am writing to people employed as soldiers in a war zone. I know that anything I write can be misconstrued and weigh heavily on the mind of a soldier who may go into combat. I also realize this isn’t rocket science, and American soldiers, although human, are highly trained professionals that are taught to block out stupidity when they are in the line of fire. They aren’t children, and neither are the eMOM civilian participants.
As a creative and professional person, I write. As an American, I see it as my duty to write to a soldier or two in Iraq. We need to wake up, people. We are one country. This war and those soldiers are our responsibility. Yes, “OUR,” which includes you. You sitting right there reading this. Write what you can. Your emails don’t have to be perfect. If you are too shy or afraid, recruit your best outgoing friends. Find someone who is sending care packages and donate something. Whatever. Those service people just want to be remembered and respected. That’s it! How EASY is that?
And you know what? You may take away more value than you can ever dream of. I get a little misty-eyed when I read how deeply grateful my penpals are just for a mere shout out. It’s a big huge piece of humble pie that ALL of us Americans, blue, red, or PURPLE, could eat. Twice.
A Proud eMailOurMilitary.com Member