Saturday, August 12, 2006

Letters from a soldier

I first met Army Second Lieutenant Michael Mendez at the Elk Grove post office. Actually, it was his mother standing in line behind me as we waited to mail Christmas packages to our sons serving in Iraq. I was sending a box of paperback books to my son Kelly's unit somewhere north of Baghdad, hoping it would help them pass the lonely hours when they were not searching the war torn streets for insurgents.
"Give me your son's address," I said to the lady I had just met, "I'll send some books."
"Don't send Bibles," she warned. "It's a Muslin country."
Friends of the Library, Elk Grove affiliate, was happy to donate a dozen used paperbacks and I boxed up a variety of genre to mail off. Mixing westerns, romances, science fiction, and mystery novels, I felt there was something for everyone. I have sent other packages to soldiers and recieved no reply. There is no need for a thank you because it is me thanking them. But my heart lit up when I got a letter from Lt. Michael Mendez of the 652 MP Company.
"I put the books out in the day room for all the men to share," he wrote. "It is people like you, willing to help out those you don't know that makes this nation great."
The note revealed a spiritual vein when he ended with "Jehovah God keeps us safe. Please keep us all in your prayers."
For some reason I'm not sure of, I didn't want to let go of this soldier. I wrote to him, asking if I could send more books. He answered, telling me more about his life. He is in the Florida National Guard and has a wife and daughter he has not seen since November. The baby was only days old when he was deployed to Iraq.
"Thank you for your support," he wrote. "Please keep the soldiers and the Iraqi people in your prayers."
I sent a card, told him how proud his daughter would be of him one day when she was older and understood what he did. His next letter filled me with amazement.
'It's nice to know complete strangers are thinking of us," he wrote. "Of course I don't think of you as a stranger even though we haven't met."
His letter told me he had graduated from Florin High School, and then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida. His dad, also named Mike, is a preacher at the Mack Road Church of Christ.
"I invite you to visit sometime," he wrote, putting down the address.
Many people believe there are no accidents in life, that everything has a plan and a purpose. I guess I believe that also. We pass through each other's lives for brief moments and the reason for it is not always clear to us. The Word tells us we see "through a glass and darkly."
Now when I spot a car with a Support Our Troops sticker on the trunk lid, forgotten and fading in the sun and rain, I wonder what that means to the owner of that car. The Bible says "by their fruits you will know them."
Soldiers and Marines are away from home, doing the job most Americans won't do. Like hundreds of other people wanting to help, I extended my hand, and to my honor, a young soldier reached out and took it. I wonder if it can only be happenstance that he grew up attending a Church of Christ just a couple of miles away from the one where I am a member.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also a soldier who served with LT Mendez and I would like to take the time to thank you for the books it passed the time away my name is SGt Bruce Hitch at the time.my e mail is brucehitch@hotmsil.com I was in the same unit

September 29, 2011 at 4:32 PM  

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