September 13, 2008 was a day for many Cal Poly freshmen to officially gain their freedom. It was the day I left my parents’ house and started anew in college. However, earlier that day I saw someone I knew I would not see for a long while. My oldest brother is a Marine who volunteered to go to Iraq and was leaving a week after I left. When we said our goodbyes, I realized I had said goodbye for eight months. He was leaving his family, his friends, nearly his entire old life because when his nation called upon him, he responded.
Being on the other side of the world in a nation that is so different from our own and being told to keep peace is a difficult experience. Many of our veterans—from World War I until our current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—have fought through this disconnection between their regular lives and fighting in a hostile land. Amidst this adversity, these soldiers occasionally get a taste of home through simple notes or care packages. These little gifts give them a reminder of home and of a nation of people who are in support of their bravery. I believe in supporting a soldier. I had an opportunity this last holiday season to be part of something that empowered my community and me. My mom had an idea to show her support of my older brother as well as his fellow Marines. She decided for Christmas we would send stockings full of presents to my brother’s unit. She asked around our neighborhood and our church to see if anyone would be interested. The response was astounding. Almost every single neighbor on my street, as well as many people from my church, decided to help out. In total, by my mom’s coordination, 79 stockings were sent to Iraq.
Knowing that one single community was able to unite and provide support for those Marines was a powerful feeling. However, the response was what intrigued me. As the packages of stockings were received, my brother was not sure whom he should give the presents. Not knowing the quantity he was about to take in, he started with his close friends and other close Marines in his unit. But once he started getting 40, 50, 60 stockings, he began giving them to random Marines he would find around his camp. This is where I found this power of support. The response he had received when he gave away these stockings was so fascinating that it was difficult for him to put into words. It was exhilarating for him to describe to me how these Marines were so inspired that a group of random people had such delight in being able to do this for them. Doing something rather small, like making stockings for these soldiers, was such a simple task and I am so joyous that it was so influential for these soldiers.
Supporting a war and supporting the troops are two completely different entities. Regardless if anyone thinks the war is right or wrong, the reality is there are young men and women who are there putting their lives on the line for a country which they are proud to do so. Our simple acts of thankfulness support them by a greater margin than I can imagine.