Just before Memorial Day this year, I did something different. As I noted at the time, I shipped some books off to military personnel in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Early Wednesday morning, I got an email from the soldier in Afghanistan, a staff sergeant originally from Pennsylvania who’s been in the Army for 17 years. Through Books for Soldiers, he’d requested books, magazines and DVDs for his battalion. I sent off six relatively new novels and a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Here’s his email (with two deletions I made and some typos repaired):
I received your box which contained all the novels. Thank you very much. I do not have regular internet like in the US because this base camp is extremely new. We do have the tents to live in but there is not electricity yet. Everything takes a little time here. The US mail comes regularly but it all depends on the weather from departing bases to our base. ….
…This is my 4th deployment into the Middle East (3 previous deployments in Iraq theater total of 48 months -18, 15, 15 months). This is my shortest deployment of 12 months. I have been in Afghanistan since [deleted]. I will leave Afghanistan around [deleted]. I’m in the extreme northwest of Afghanistan where no American troops had ever been in this region. According to the Push (Surge) from President Obama, 30,000 more American troops will come into Afghanistan to spread their influences over the country. I’m a part of this surge.
Now what I or anyone thinks about the advisability or strategies of the war in Afghanistan (or Iraq) is beside the point. Here’s a guy who will have spent five years of his life in those countries, away from the safety and comforts of home and family. Here’s a group of soldiers living in tents without electricity who are happy to get books and magazines. Knowing that ranks this as perhaps the best book “recycling” I’ve ever done.
This isn’t a pat myself on the back deal. I want people to get an idea of what programs like Books for Soldiers and Operation Paperback really mean. Although actions like this go beyond supporting the troops by putting a decal on your car, what is more important is that these organizations transcend personal or political views. Granted, giving someone a book may not be the most altruistic or important act in the world — but it’s still human being to human being. And we can always use some of that.
So, if you’re boxing up or needing to get rid of good slightly used books, magazines or DVDs, consider signing up with Books for Soldiers, Operation Paperback or a similar group. The end result is, in fact, priceless.
Being a soldier, fighting for this country, is neither Republican nor Democrat
Max Cleland, April 1, 2006