It was in March when I first heard about Soldiers Angels, a group of volunteers who (among other things) can ask to adopt a soldier. You get the briefest of bits of information--the soldier's name and address and if they have offered any personal information, that too. Amanda #1 did not attach a message, so all I had was her address, from where I was able to figure out where in the Middle East she was stationed, but that was that.
Soldiers Angels has a form you can print to send to your soldier to help you decide what to include in care packages, because you also agree to send a package a month, along with a letter a week.
Innocently I sent off the form and my first few letters and figured that any day now I would hear from her.
I never did seek out the forum to see what other "angels" were talking about. I just continued to write my letters and wait for my first letter from Amanda.
As I said, you pledge to send one care package a month, and Soldiers Angels have some pre-packaged things you can order to be sent, and I did that, twice. I still waited for that first letter.
Somewhere in there, I asked for another soldier and was assigned another Amanda. I had high hopes that maybe this one would write, because her paper work had even less information than Amanda #1.
Now I was sending two letters a week and two packages a month. I finally write to my Soldiers Angel mentor and essentially got back a "Hey, it's not about you--it's about the soldiers." Turns out that it's not at all uncommon to never hear from your soldier. Essentially--how silly I was to expect that someone would answer.
I decided to check out the forums and see what others were saying. I didn't find anything about whether to expect mail or not, but I did find a suggestion that you might be able to find out about your soldier's unit by doing a google search on the address. So I did. And low and behold, not only did I find out where her unit is, but I discovered they have a Facebook page! Not only that,but there are tons of photos on the page. I found out where they are from, how many in the unit and a bit about the kinds of jobs they are doing (working with natives to help rebuild schools, for one thing).
I looked at each and every picture. Most were not identified at all, but I was able to view their camp, the room where there are lots of treadmills, the latrine, and the schedule of movies for July 1. There were two pictures of women with the same last name as my soldier. One of the pictures was identified as a different first name, but the other one was simply "SPC So-and-So." Hmmm...could this be my Amanda? I left a note on one of those, asking if this was Amanda (to date no response on that question).
Then this afternoon there was a huge amount of mail for me.
It was exciting enough to get a letter from one of my Compassion kids and letters from some of my penpals, as well as five different postcards. But that envelope that I've put the red flash on is....a letter from Amanda 1!
Quite a nice letter, too. I now know how old she is (young enough to be my granddaughter), where she's from, how many are in her family, that she has a pit bull at home, what books she likes to read, and that she works in IT and says that if I send her my e-mail address, she will send me photos.
Yes, it's not about me--it's about the soldiers, but even I am surprised at how this one letter changes everything. She's now flesh and blood to me. I have someone to care about, to worry about. I found a set of books by her favorite author and ordered it to send to her in the package I'm making right now (gotta love that flat rate mail!)
I really don't need to hear from her any more. After all, she's in a war zone and might be a little too busy to write to a stranger on the other side of the world, but I know enough about her to know what to write about and what to send to her. It changes everything for me.Of course, I have already written a response. :)