Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five Questions: Soldiers' Angel

My friend Leslie is a former Army spouse, but she still supports the troops in a very concrete way. She is a Soldier's Angel, part of the "volunteer-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit with hundreds of thousands of volunteers providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, veterans and their families", per their website.

Has your Soldier or Airmen or Sailor or Marine ever had a Soldier's Angel? My husband has, and let me tell you, the benefits do not end with the Soldier they support. Just knowing that someone else was sending cards or notes or the occasional care package meant that I could relax a little. I wasn't the only one supporting him. I wasn't the only one who knew he was there.

Leslie has been a member of Soldier’s Angels since 2006, adopting her first soldier in Dec 2006 while her husband was still in the Army. Becoming more active in the organization after her husband left the Army, she became a team leader for their Letter Writing Team, fulfilling the team's purpose of making sure that everyone hears their name at mail call. In September of 2010, she became the Team Admin. She oversees over 6,000 volunteers who are divided among 25 team leaders.

Somewhere in there she writes 3 letters daily to different Soldiers. She acts as a regional representative, getting people involved and doing care package drives.

She wrote to me: "I love every second of what I do, so much that I changed my college major from Forensic Science to Business Management/Public Relations. I’m not a paid member of staff -- all of my work is volunteer."

Many military spouses whose direct bond to the military ends, decide that is the end of it. Many of them go one step further and continue to serve and support the Soldiers they have come to know and love. Leslie, thank you.

Her Five Questions:

1. What are five things you know now about military life that you wish someone had told you?

• Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is my favorite line of all time. At the time we got together he had been in almost 14 years so I was pretty well prepared, but even still it had its challenges.

• DON’T take everything someone says as fact; if it smells fishy it probably is, and don’t be afraid to ask questions just do it in the right way.

• In the Army there is no such thing as fair.

• Happy packers during a PCS are less likely to break your stuff.

• Even when something comes along out of left field and throws all your best laid plans down the drain, take the experience and learn from it!

2. What is the most important thing you'd like to tell new spouses?

• Educate yourself and get involved! Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone a little. Make new friends, learn about the unit your husband is in, the post you are at, what is available to you etc. Knowledge is power and it pays off to be well armed.

3. What do you love the most?

• I love the bond, even now being on the other side I know that I have that “family” for the rest of my life and I will always have that support and the friendships that I’ve made no matter where life takes me.

4. What do you find the hardest?

• For me it was overcoming a lot of barriers. Having a physical diability like I do is not something commonly dealt with (in the Army). From dealing with educating PCM’s to dealing with housing for accessibility issues, it taught everyone involved something. I think it was because I became more comfortable about opening up to people, and if it helped pave the way for someone in a similar situation then it was worth it.

5. Tell me a story that sums up military life for you

• I don’t really have a story, but all in all I can honestly say that it’s helped me figure out who I really am capable of being and that in some ways it’s okay to open up and just be who I am and not who everyone thinks that I should be.

Do you know a military spouse who might like to be part of Five Question Friday? Are you that spouse? Please send me an email or just drop a comment below. I love to hear from you.

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