In June of 1983, I was huddled together with the rest of my Basic Training platoon in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, as our Senior Drill Sergeant regaled us with the three things the Army would hold sacrosanct for soldiers.
We trainees were hoping one of the three would be sleep, but based on the average of four hours (not even consecutive) we had received that first week of Basic, it didn’t seem likely.
As the Senior Drill’s crazy-eyes pierced each of us from under his una-brow, he declared, with enumerating fingers slapping into the palm of his hand: one - mail; two - meals; and three - money.
During the rest of Basic Training, his words proved true as all efforts were made to ensure we had a daily mail call; even if we had to do push-ups for every letter received or eat all the cookies/candy/etc. in one sickening binge in front of the platoon once the package was opened and the "contraband" was discovered - much to the hooting joy of the anticipating audience and the lurching dread of the recipient.
During the following years, I had three over-seas tours and much more appreciated the cookies and mail I received from family and friends, but not nearly as much as I do now here in TK.
Part of the pleasure probably comes from anticipation since, due to logistical arrangements, mail arrives to the base and is distributed just three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
Typically, the mail is sorted in the mornings so it is generally the afternoon when it finally makes it way into the hot, greedy hands of the waiting soldiers. So, when you do not receive anything on Thursday, it seems like a long wait through Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday before finding out if there will be something for you.
But when there is mail, there is warm pleasure in knowing someone out there is thinking about you and has gone through the time and trouble to post something. Sure, getting an email is nice, as well, but it really does not compare to the tangible, hands-on experience of getting a package or letter.
An email is a bit ephemeral and is only accessible electronically while a letter can be carried in a pocket and read any time; a photo taped up, can be the last thing seen before going to bed and the first thing upon awakening.
The letter or package does not even have to be from someone you know to bring delight and raise morale. There are quite a few groups which spend a lot of time and money (mostly donated) sending letters and care packages to soldiers/service members.
If you Google “soldier care package”, several of these organizations will be at the top of your list; at their respective sites you will find details on how you may support them with time, money, donations, or ways to send items directly to soldiers.
“Directly” is not wholly accurate. When my friend in Petoskey, Michigan sends me a letter, the APO part of my address means it will first be sent to New York City for the initial step of processing. At that point, the mail leaves the influence of US Postal, FEDEX, etc., so when sending something to a soldier, don’t waste your money on expedited service as they will only apply until it gets to NY.
From NY, the mail is sent to Germany. Then to Kuwait. Then to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Then, finally, to Tarin Kowt. Each step of the way the mail can be subject to the whims of space on aircrafts being available, or the way the package or letter has been sorted and grouped with other mail.
As my Platoon Sergeant puts it, it can be a crapshoot. We have received some mail in a matter of days while other items have taken over three weeks to arrive.
But when the mail finally does arrive here at TK, nothing raises a soldier’s spirits more. So please keep it coming so that when the postman rings, there is something nice.