Saturday, January 2, 2010

You have a role, if you want it.......

There was a time in the United States over 50 years ago when most men between the ages of 20 and 40 were likely to have served the nation in uniform, or assisted in the nation's defense in some other capacity. Now, we have a professional military which is the envy of nations everywhere. Our volunteer force is exceptional in many, many ways.

In the midst of an ongoing war in Afghanistan, some regular citizens who are not in uniform (or who, like me, are past the age at which we would quality) but might feel some call to help. There are substantial ways to do this, and a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Jim Hake points the way here. My friend MaryAnn Phillips, one of the simply outstanding living examples of how civilians can make a massive difference, also links to this article here.

I can tell you that we have shipped many, many packages of shoes, winter clothing, winter hats, vitamins, school supplies, and other gear meant for children in Afghanistan over the past three years. It has made a tremendous difference for the children there, and this has translated into a safer environment for the soldiers and Marines who distributed this aid. (You might find some of this kind of gear on clearance at Walmart and other stores now and in the next month or so...) This kind of effort really is effective. Part of the reason it is effective is because of the story that goes with the items that you might send: American families sent this for you. It is America at its best......

There are other, related ways, too. Among many superb organizations, Soldiers Angels and provide opportunities and information about how to take this on yourself. Both organizations are run by completely upstanding people with a genuine concern for those who serve the nation in harm's way. (There are other good organizations, too, but I know them both from years of interactions, and I am completely confident in their dedication and skill.) Neither organization assumes you know everything that there is to know about how to make it work. Both will provide direction for you. I knew absolutely nothing about how to do this four years ago when I started. If I can figure it out, believe me you can, too!

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