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Writing to a Soldier

I had an email exchange with a United States soldier deployed in Afghanistan. I got his name from “Adopt a US Soldier” http://www.adoptaussoldier.org/ after an item on the news last week. Apparently, more than 25% of US soldiers posted abroad never receive a communication from home. I couldn’t resist answering the call for correspondents.

I suppose I had expected a long and continuous series of email exchanges with “my” soldier. His “wish list” included a hunger for education, an interest in science and computers (science and engineering magazines and logic puzzle books, please) and more training while he's still in the army. He is also planning to marry his high school sweetheart while he’s home on leave. This last piece of information came to me in his first email which also shifted my idea of correspondence with a deployed soldier.

Stephen works 12 hour days. He has to stand in line to use a computer. I have no idea where he is or what he is doing nor is he free to tell me. When he told me he was applying for more training I asked if his need for math and science textbooks could wait. He said, No, he would be wherever he is until October at which time his deployment would be “over.” I realized that whatever I sent him to read—letters, magazines, books—would be a portal to home, a way to imagine a future for himself at home with his girl.

I bought three books on amazon and sent three magazines from the post office addressed to a base in Georgia which will reroute the package. Though I went way beyond my budget, I also felt gratified. How often do we make a donation to person we can “touch,” a real person with a history, a present, and a future?

I plan to continue writing to SPC Stephen Porter by snail mail, old-fashioned letters either printed or written in long hand. The adopt a US soldier site reminds all volunteers that these letters are portable, they can be taken into the field, and read over and over again.

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