I love community service. Really. Not to be corny, but I love helping people. I’ve done a lot of community service, often dealing with a local nursing home, but one project I took on last year has left a mark on me.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 devastated America, but we’ve stood up to terrorists. There are the well-known figures in the war, but there are also many unknown soldiers on the battlefront fighting for America who don’t get nearly enough recognition.
When my cousin Kevin went to fight in Iraq, I wanted to show the soldiers they were appreciated, so I got addresses from Kevin and started sending postcards to random squadron members. I made small talk, commenting on the weather here at home and sharing little facts about myself. I hoped to bring a few smiles, but the response was overwhelming.
I received 13 replies. Some soldiers even sent mementos, and all were really grateful I had cared enough to send postcards. I couldn’t believe the effect they had on the soldiers. It obviously meant a lot to them. Just imagine what bigger gestures could accomplish!
One soldier sent me a package and told me I was a fine American - just for sending him a postcard! He told me it had become a good-luck charm for him and he sent me some rocks from Iraq. There was also an American flag enclosed, and he wrote that he had flown that flag on a combat mission in my honor! I couldn’t believe it!
I hadn’t expected to make such a big impact. I think I made their lives a little better just by writing a few sentences on a postcard. When Kevin came home, he told me how excited everyone had been about my postcards, and showed me photos of the people I had written to.
I was even in my local newspapers and on the news. One soldier wrote me saying: I’m a friend of your cousin. We work in the same squadron. My crew received two of your postcards today. One was of you in front of the Fourth of July parade, which made me homesick to see my daughter, who is three years younger than you.
It’s nice of you to take time and write people you don’t even know. We really enjoyed your cards. It brightened our day and we all talked about our hometowns and families.
Another wrote, It was real nice getting a postcard from you. I was talking to Kevin and he said you’re his niece ... you should be real proud of him, he’s a brave man.
The weather here is real hot during the day and a little cool during the night. There’s not much to do here if we’re not flying, we play cards or just plain make fun of each other.
Hopefully the war will be over soon, I can’t wait to see my wife and two boys again. To have a home-cooked meal again would sure be nice. Well, thanks for the postcard and do your best in school.
It still amazes me that something so small had such a large result.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the April 2005 Teen Ink Community Service Contest.