Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Salute Is Good, A Letter May Be Better

The power of the word is an amazing thing.

I was reminded of that by Janet Elaine Smith's portrayal of a returning soldier and his family enjoying a meal at a Red Lobster in her hometown. Much can be done with a clause that comes before a comma. Or a blog like hers.

And so much needs to be done. I'm hoping I can encourage more people to do more than pass around patriotic photos of troops on the Web. Sure that makes us feel good but in little more time we can write letters to our congressman or woman or president. Many of the military issues we heard about in the past have not gone away.

Some of them are:
1. A huge number of soldiers still live beneath the poverty level of a citizen of the US.
2. Many, including a poet friend of mine, 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 out of 30,000 that hadn't been recalled.
4. Benefits for our soldiers (general ones--not just health benefits) have been cut in the last few years, not increased.

What else can we as individual do? Well, donate to the USO. Or Fisher House (more about that in a minute). Send letters and care packages overseas. Make it something that the guys and gals need that so they won't have to spend their precious salaries on things that are cheaper here at Wal Mart. And, yes, send letters of thanks. And, when you see a soldier at your local Italian restaurant, don't just offer, buy the guy (or gal) a meal on the QT. Not out of charity. Out of thanks.

Back to Fisher House. Eric Dinyer calls himself a "Book Packager." He asked me to write the foreword of one of his packages called "Support Our Troops." It is a small (under $10) gift book published by the giant US publisher Andrews-McMeel. It's full of patriotic quotes, carries a Support Our Troops magnet on the cover AND the proceeds benefit Fisher House, a kind of Ronald McDonald Home charity that benefits the families of our wounded soldiers. It makes a nice little double gift for anyone related to a soldier overseas. In it, you'll find a short essay about the day I watched my grandson graduate from boot camp. Learn more about it at my website For information on writers organizations, newsletters and other activists who can help you do something supportive, e-mail me at or leave a message on this blog.

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