With on-going conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, American soldiers’ deployments take them many places around the globe. Although their guns and weapons are much different from those of the American Doughboys of World War I and the GIs of World War II, one thing they all have in common is the desire to receive messages from home. All messages convey love, respect, and support, but the most appreciated are those that are handwritten since the sender took the time out of their day to put words to paper.
For the Doughboys of World War I, mail to the fronts in Europe from the United States took weeks and even months to arrive because they had to travel by ship through the hostile waters of the Atlantic Ocean. With German U-Boats plying the waters of the Atlantic and unrestricted submarine warfare, many letters were lost at sea, and the lonely Doughboys in the trenches sometimes waited in vain for messages from home. But, once one of the 35 million pieces of mail reached its recipient on the front lines, a little slice of heaven arrived to transport the soldier back home for as long as it took to read the letter and digest its contents. These moments of relief helped the boys of World War I briefly forget the cold and stark reality that saw their comrades maimed or killed in the mortar and gas attacks common to the trenches.
For the GIs of World War II, the United States Postal Department had to increase their delivery capacity, and the War Department came up with the idea of V-Mail or Victory Mail. V-Mail letters were written on specially designed forms that could be scanned onto microfilm which reduced the weight and number of bags required to mail regular letters. 150,000 one-page notes took 37 mail bags and weighed 2,475 pounds whereas the same 150,000 v-mail letters weighed only 45 pounds. This allowed for quicker mail service to the GIs in the diverse battle areas from Europe to the South and Central Pacific. Again, the boys in the far-flung locations dreamed and looked forward to any missive from home because it kept them in touch with their hometowns and family. With each letter from home, the soldier’s morale increased exponentially and helped take his mind off the tragedies that occurred regularly at the front.
During World War I and World War II, holidays like Valentine’s Day held significance for those young men who were serving far from wives and girlfriends who meant everything to them. In the trenches of France and Belgium or on the beaches of Guadalcanal or the hills of North Africa, the Doughboys and GIs savored every Valentine’s card or letter they received from their ‘girls’ back home. Love and support in those Valentines kept the morale of those soldiers high and helped them continue the slog required to win both wars.
Modern soldiers face the same loneliness that the Doughboys and GIs faced because the men and women of the US Armed Services are deployed globally to fight the War on Terror. Even with the instant communication that 2019 allows, the holidays are still challenging with families separated by miles, oceans, and unknown combat conditions. Emails, FaceTime, and satellite phone calls help cut the distance when husbands or wives are deployed, but the card or letter sent from wives, children, or hometown schools can help lift the morale of entire units.
The VFW Auxiliary and other local and national organizations work to provide opportunities for communities to come together to honor veterans, deployed troops, new recruits, and first responders with cards, letters, and care packages that help remind those who serve that they are not forgotten.
How does your school, church, or civic organization get involved? First, find a local veteran’s group such as the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, American Legion, or any number of military-connected charity that regularly send care packages to deployed troops, and put pen to paper.
The world may be smaller because of the internet, but our deployed troops need to have a physical reminder they are remembered and are heroes to all of us back home. Remember that any small thing you do to pay it forward can make giant waves in a soldier’s life.
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