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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Today My Grandson Leaves for Iraq--Again. Here's What We Can Do

On this, the day my grandson flies from his base in Colorado to Iraq, I thought I'd begin this blog with a letter published in the Glendale News-Press. The city had decided to hang banners supporting our toops. As you can see, I had mixed emotions about that:

As a writer I am a proponent of the power of words. Put those words on a banner and the effect may be even greater.

Nevertheless the idea of our city's spending a large sum of money on banners (see GNP Thursday, Aug 23, 2007 Page A3) when so much needs to be done for our troops bothers me. In the past I've blogged to encourage our citizenry—in the midst of a fervor of well-deserved support for our troops—to do more than pass around patriotic photos of troops on the Web, wave flags or, yes, hang banners. We need to do more because many of the military issues we heard about in the past have not gone away. Here are a few:

1. A huge number of soldiers still earn beneath the poverty level of a citizen of the US.
2. Many veterans, including a poet friend of mine who suffers from PTSD, are not receiving the medical benefits they were promised and deserve.
3. I'm not sure about the flak jacket and armored vehicles snafu (my grandson who just returned from Iraq said he was issued his flaks) but last I heard there were some 10,000 faulty ones that hadn't been recalled out of 30,000.
4. Benefits for our soldiers (general ones—not just health benefits) have been cut in the last few years, not increased.
5. Most of our soldiers called up from the reserves—some of them for the third time—do not receive education benefits when they return home.

Besides a blog and letter here and there, I've donated a foreword to a book that supports Fisher House, a Ronald McDonald's House type service that provides homes for the families of wounded servicemen and women being treated overseas. It doesn't feel as if it's doing any good.

It may seem a bit ridiculous to say, considering that I'm writing this letter, but I'm about worded out. Still, perhaps because my grandson is in the military soon to return to Iraq for the second time, I just can't let go. So here are a few ideas that don't necessarily take a lot of time or money (but could if one was so disposed.):

1. Let's donate to the USO. Or Fisher House (the charitable organization I mentioned above. If everyone sent a dollar, we could make a huge difference.
2. Send letters and care packages overseas. Make that gift something that the guys and gals need so they won't have to spend their precious salaries on things that are cheaper here at our local CVS. Some churches have overseas programs in place.
4. Send similar gifts to the soldiers who are back in the US after a tour of duty. Many of them have had their tours extended--involuntarily--and will be going back to the desert sand soon.
5. Write letters to your congress people and our President about the benefits our new vets (and yes, our Viet vets!) aren't getting. And, yes, send letters of thanks, too, when they actually vote for something that supports them.
6. And, when you see a soldier at your local Italian restaurant, don't just offer, buy the guy (or gal) a meal on the Q.T.. Not out of charity. Out of thanks.

Now about those banners. If we must put up banners, perhaps they could include calls to action? Maybe one or more of the suggestions above, complete with URLs to make helping easier.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.


Leora said...

Thanks for starting this blog, Carolyn. We need to remember what we often forget, that young men and women are still in harm's way, devoting the best years of their physical and emotional lives to our country.Whether we agree or disagree with the administration about our presence in Iraq, let's at least agree to not forget our soldiers.

Joyce said...

I'll be praying for him, Carolyn. Not just that he'll be safe, but that he will come home feeling good about himself and his mission.

I agree with you that it's one thing to say "Support Our Troops" and quite another to actually do it. The little magnets are just slogans unless one puts some effort behind the thought.

Seems to me that many of us don't really know what to do to help. Our hearts are good -- but then we have our own lives to life...and soon, the only time we think of our troops is when CNN reports the latest death.

Joyce Faulkner

Yvonne Perry said...

Carolyn, we wish the very best for your son.

I saw a great video clip today that you might want to link to

Yvonne Perry

Yvonne Perry said...

As the author of a book on stem cell research, I am concerned about our soldiers who are coming home from war with injuries that might benefit from therapies resulting from stem cell research. Had our president not vetoed the stem cell research enhancement act (twice) we might have found a treatment for our veterans by now. Read about this at

Holly said...

Praying for Travis and supporting family and friends. The ones left behind need our support too. They are indirectly in the service as well. Great ideas on the support effort. If you do not know how to start the care packages, etc., many of the local VFW or American Legion posts will help. Most of them are constantly sending care-packages and know postal addresses.
Come home Safely.

Holly said...

One more thing. Your local VA hospitals sure could use some volunteers as well for the ones who have served us so well. Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas is one of the first stops home for many of our men and women. Many well wishes, encouraging words and care-packages would be greatly appreciated.

Holly said...

One more thing. Your local VA hospital is always needing volunteers. Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX is one of the first stops on the road to recovery for many of our men and women. Well wishes, encouraging words and care packages would be greatly appreciated.

Holly said...

By request of my lovely cousin, here are the web addresses for some of the organizations where you can help, volunteer, and make a difference. For the American Legion, The VFW, and the Veteran's Administration Both the legion and the VFW sites have a link to locate a post in your area. The VA site has a link to volunteer in your area. Wonderful organizations to be involved. Also a great organization for your loved one to join when he or she returns. They can be around men and women who have "been there." Let's face it, as much as we (those at home) want to try to understand, we can't. Many do not ever talk about it. Sometimes being around those who have, they are not alone, it is therapeutic.
Please visit.

holly said...

By request of my lovely cousin, here are some web sites to help. For the American Legion,, the VFW, and for the VA, All very good organizations to help, volunteer or join to make a difference.
Also, the American Legion and the VFW are great organizations for our loved ones returning to join. They will be around those men and women who have "been there." Let's face it, as much as we (those left at home) want to understand what they have been through and are giong through, we can't. It can be very therapeutic to be around those who have.