'Tis the season to be jolly and joyful, and one of my greatest personal joys this year has been corresponding with some of our soldiers on the front lines of America's defenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all my years of motherhood, I have never seen such a steady demonstration of courage, sound reason and deep passion emanating from any group of young people.
And as our own grown children would readily testify, I never give gratuitous praise; it's against my motherhood ethics.
Our soldiers seem to scorn the feelings of entitlement, so commonplace among our sheltered, pampered youth. Saying nothing about what they are due, their words are filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for the opportunity to serve a Nation they love. General George Washington quite surely smiles upon them from his heavenly observation post, as their own Gentleman-General Petraeus must likewise do every day on the ground.
These American men and women do us all proud. Every wife, husband, fiancé, child, mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin, buddy, pal, Joe and Sally Citizen among us.
One of the most gratifying things of all is that they know we love them and that we care about every single hair upon their heads in harms way. They have a sense of our prayers and our genuine concern for their welfare. Their correspondence is overflowing with their gratitude for our gifts, letters and cards.
America's message is getting through loud and clear in myriad ways, both tangible and intangible. The NYT etal no longer have the power to stifle our love for those who take our flag into battle and who suffer the injury and insults of battling America's enemies in our name.
This direct citizen-to-unknown-soldier contact has never been the case in our Nation's history.
Until the Vietnam War, our troops were protected in battle from the outcries of naysayers at home by a national press endeared to their missions. But all that changed dramatically with the Vietnam War, when so many in the national media scorned our Nation's intent, our soldiers, their mission, even their families. And the only media coverage Stateside was then garnered by the small numbers of anti-war demonstrators who shared the media's contempt for our Country and our war effort.
This was the message our soldiers far from home received; it was a lie. Even though 80%* of the American public supported our war effort in Vietnam for its entirety, the silent majority was forced into silence due to technological barriers only breached in the past two and half decades.
Cell phones and the internet have set our voices free! We can now be heard all over the world by the ears and eyes of our valiant fighting forces. And the real, un-filtered, non-politicized war news can be found on the internet by any American who truly wants to know.
So, Rejoice! Americans are no longer gagged by the media moguls and their bully-pulpits, their microphones, their privilege. The media's ivory tower has been shattered to tiny bits and lies in smithereens at the foot of citizen power all over our great, great Land.
A few days ago, I had the profound privilege of speaking at length with the founder of Operation Gratitude, an entirely volunteer citizen organization who has had perhaps the loudest voice in getting our message to our troops in every theater of the War against the IslamoFascists and their terror armies. Of all the groups mentioned for praise by our troops, Operation Gratitude seems known and appreciated by all, from every rank.
Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude's driving force, is an amazing woman, I must say, possessed not only of great care for every individual soldier, but also of boundless energy, focus and fortitude. She also must have quite a way with persuasion; she has raised a veritable army of givers, individual and corporate alike.
From her living room in Encino, California she began a tiny enterprise in the wake of her post-9/11 experiences as a volunteer in the USO airport lounge in Los Angeles. One soldier -- one soldier -- she says, so touched her motherly heart that she knew she had to do something about his feeling that no one would care if he never made it back home. (Yes, I know, this breaks my heart as well.)
That one soldier's need to know we all care has led to the sending of more than 300,000 care packages filled with Stateside goodies, cards and personal letters since 2003. Thousands of on-site volunteers, and hundreds of thousands of citizen supporters from every town in America have seized upon Carolyn's outstretched opportunity to show we care.
Carolyn says that her inbox is filled every day with countless letters of friendship, thanks and American kinship from the many soldiers who have received the care packages, so lovingly sent by citizens through Operation Gratitude.
Among the many simple thanks she receives, one message emerges loud and clear. The soldiers love the goodies, enjoy the movies and games, appreciate the batteries and toiletries, but they positively cherish the hand-written letters.
Carolyn tells of one soldier, a young man with little support from family or friends at home, who after partaking of the sweets and watching the movie sent, carefully opens the hand-written letter of a little unknown girl from Michigan, reads her words of love and her heartfelt prayer for his safety, sheds a few silent tears, then folds the lined notebook page and carefully places it in his combat helmet, taking it with him into every battle, his most cherished possession.
Hollywood wake up! Here is your blockbuster war movie!
Writing now, as an older, wiser Boomer, one of the gagged silent majority of Vietnam-War days, I have found it especially heartening to learn that a large proportion of Operation Gratitude volunteers at the now vastly expanded packaging headquarters in the National Guard Amory in Encino, are Vietnam Vets. And these men are now getting through giving, the healing of their hearts and minds, and understanding perhaps for the very first time, that this outpouring of love and respect is what we as a Nation would have done for them if only we had had the opportunity to do so.
This, in itself, is a very belated gift to our veterans, for which all Americans have just cause for rejoicing.
Time and space here simply do not permit a listing of the myriad organizations that have sprouted to fill our national need to be part of our Country's war effort. The purely spontaneous, individual and group ventures, formed to support and thank our troops in harms way, abound in the variety and scope that exemplifies our uniquely American, creative, entrepreneurial spirit. They represent young and old, rich and poor, religious and non-religious, right and left, north, south, east, west and everywhere in between.
So rejoice, America! The once-all-powerful gag of the mainstream media is broken at last!
Let freedom ring!
*This statistic comes from the book, Modern Times, by Paul Johnson; Harper Collins; 1991; p. 637.