Remember last week when I took a hiatus? I know, I try to block traumatic events out of my memory as well, but I think I’ve figured out why I was in such a weird mood, trying to avoid a lot of things: Last week was the anniversary of L’s death.
Each year it gets easier and easier to pass May 24th without having to just shut out the rest of the world. I know each death in a person’s life will affect them in a different way, but I think his has affected me the most. Probably because I’m reminded of it twice a year. The first few years after he died really sucked. Ya know what? It still sucks! It really sucks. But like every loss, with time it gets better.
However, in order to keep my positivity up, and to honour his memory the best I can, I heard of a program that I want to share with you. L would have loved this, and he would have probably participated before he enlisted and was deployed. Honestly, I could see him doing this even when he was deployed. Even though he wasn’t there long enough to even get any mail or send any.
When I heard about it, it was Any American Solider, but I Googled and found out that Canada does the same thing. It’s a simple enough concept: you write a letter and address it to Any Canadian Solider then mail it to a military base somewhere in the world.
I started doing this two years after L’s death when I was in teacher’s college. I was in a grade 5 class starting right after Thanksgiving (that’s in October up here) and up until Christmas. Supporters really push this campaign around Christmas so that service men and women get Christmas cards. I talked about it with my Supervising Teacher and he said he loved the idea. We took an hour or so out of class one day and made as many Christmas cards as possible, the students writing little notes inside to whoever was going to get it. Of course, the notes had to be kind of vague since we didn’t know who was getting them. Then we found the addresses of Canadian bases and the kids got to pick where they were sending their letters. Then we mailed them all off. I started by sending all of mine to Afghanistan – if that’s where L was last, that’s where my first letters were going.
The kids felt super great about it! Some even got replies back (addressed to them via their teacher at the school of course). Some were just form letters that were signed with a quick little note, some were hand-written by a specific person who received the letter.
I still do this every year in memory of my friend. It helps me get into the Christmas spirit really early since the cards have to be at a base in Ontario by early November to guarantee arrival for Christmas, and it also helps with that lingering twinge of extra sadness over Remembrance Day. I get a mix of replies, sometimes none at all. One year I even gathered up maple leaves from my backyard, dried them out, laminated them, and included them in the Christmas card (if you are going to put something in the card, it should be flat-ish and easy to decipher when the mail is screened before shipping it out. There are people you can email for the specifics and I corresponded with a very nice Colonel about the requirements for things inside the envelopes.). That year I got a lot of replies. Most were thanking me for the little piece of home to help make the holidays better. Seriously, what kind of fall is it if you don’t get to see the leaves change colour?
I can’t imagine having to be away from home over the holidays and being in a dangerous place. I didn’t even like living in Korea over the holidays and not being able to be with my family. But I do know that every Christmas card that arrived made it a little easier to be away from them. I like to pay that feeling forward. And I know L would approve and appreciate the gesture. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something worthwhile to do! I’m sure it doesn’t have to be around Christmas (even though I always do it at Christmas time). I mean, who doesn’t love getting a surprise letter? Right?!
If you want to include a letter to a recovering soldier, that’s a great idea too! And you can use this address:
A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20307-5001