I mentioned once before that we have tables inside of our building that are known as Freebie areas. The table for my unit has a few standard items are always on it. Paperback hardback books are aligned on the back side of the table closest the wall. It is the simplest form of library, you take a book and read it then you bring it back and put it on the table again. If you have a book that you have read, you put it on the table for someone else. The same holds true for magazines, which are piled at one end of the table. I must say, I had no idea that so much a variety of magazines even existed anymore. I have seen everything from basic sports magazines to Crocheting Monthly. The table sits out in the open, where everyone walks past at least once or twice a day. It is kind of funny, when you catch a big muscular soldier trying to slip a book on a table unnoticed and when you walk past you notice it is the latest romance novel by Jude Devereaux.
Other things go on the table too. For example, when someone is leaving they will often put leftover cleaning supplies, uneaten packs of Ramen noodles, writing paper, and other things that they had left on hand that might be better utilized here been taken home. Occasionally, you will see things that people have gotten in care packages that they wish to share with everybody. Cookies, Kool-Aid mix, and other things that friends may have shipped to them that were excess.
The Chaplain will also put things on the table, usually puts small booklets about dealing with being alone or how to maintain long-distance relationships. Occasionally, he will put out crosses -- not just your basic cross but Catholic, Protestant, Celtic, Orthodox, and Unitarian crosses. A Chaplain in the military has a duty to all faiths not just his own -- -- which explains why on 1 May our Chaplain will be conducting a Fertility Rite for the local Wiccan Coven. We live in an unusual world.
The First Sgt. will slip boxes onto the table that are full of things shipped by supportative members of the American public. If you've ever taken part in any donation program that said they were going to ship things to service members in the war zone they probably wound up on a table just like this. The boxes hold lots of different kinds of goodies. Sometimes Girl Scout cookies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, skin lotion, and body wash to name just a few. Normally, I don't take any of these items preferring to leave them for the GIs who need them when they go forward or who can't get off base the way I can. What I normally do take from these boxes -- -- well I really just borrow them because I put them back -- -- are the letters that come from schoolkids.
I will usually grab one or two of these is that walk by and when I get back to my office I will sit and read them when I have an idle moment. It is really cool to see how much of a grasp of reality third-graders have. Usually, all the letters start out the same and have a paragraph or two that was probably written by the teacher. The final paragraph of each letter tends to be a little bit different and probably authored by the child. I read a letter from one child who said he wished he had a dinosaur he could send us to help us get the bad guys so we could get home sooner. Another one talked about how he hoped that the snacks he sent would not make us feel too homesick since they were form the USA. I also read one letter which was obviously written by military child, that asked that we tell his mom "Hello" when we saw her and that he missed her and wanted her to come home. It is letters like that that get you.
Last Friday, there was a distribution of small bags that came in from Operation Shoebox. Everyone in the unit got one, to include us civilians. It was a small cloth bag that had things like bubblegum, assorted toiletries, the crossword puzzle page out of a local newspaper, and a small note from the person who would put the package together. One of the people in the office got a note from an eight-year-old that included a neat drawing of airplane. My bag came from Rusty and Marn't Smith. I kept that note from them, and it went up on the wall of my cubicle. It is nice to have people like that remember and support you.
When I was on active-duty, I was part of the Cold War era. Those of us who were veterans of that period, got no parade, no medals, no monument, and the American public basically ignored us even though we won the war. I am so glad to see that the men in uniform today have the support of the American people and that they are not being ignored but are being noticed and remembered.
If you feel like doing something, but are not sure what to do Operation Shoebox does take donations in a variety of forms and you can get to their website by going here Operation Shoebox