They must have tumbled out from my over-stuffed drawer of vintage things that I want to keep but have no idea what to do with. But I recognized them immediately — about a dozen letters from a soldier filling sandbags at checkpoints in Bosnia in 1996.
I don’t remember exactly how I got his address. At the time, newspaper columnists like Dear Abby would publish a general address to send notes of encouragement to men and women in the service. Maybe I got it there or from my cousin who was in the military. All I know is that almost half-a-lifetime ago I sent a card and a soldier replied.
For about eight months we wrote about our day-to-day lives, our families and our pets. I got a glimpse of life in the military and he got cookies and a football to share with his buddies. And prayers. Lots of prayers.
“A couple of days ago one of our soldiers was shot by an intruder. He’s going to be okay, though,” he wrote, adding that another soldier died when a vehicle went off a cliff. “Hopefully, nobody else will be hurt or killed while we’re down here.”
Hasn’t that always been the prayer? Well before the 1904 poll tax and the war rations of 1946? Well before I ever signed my name to a card?
As we come close to Memorial Day, may we be thankful for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and grateful for all of those who have freely given up basic comforts, peaceful rest and precious time with loved ones on our behalf.
Unfortunately, battles still rage in this bullet-pocked world. May we pray for those who wear the uniform today and those who wear the responsibility at home.
For the leaders of not just our country, but for those around the world, may we pray for wisdom, patience, compassion and courage to do the right thing.
And for my long-ago friend? I pray he made it home safely and that he enjoys this weekend — without any sandbags to fill.