The plain white envelope addressed to Ms. Ann Trail came in the morning mail. There was no stamp, just the words "free" cancelled by the USPS. The return address on the back included an APO zip code. Let me share:
24 May 2012
My name is ... and I would like to thank your for the absolutely beautiful crosses you have made for us. But most importantly, thank you so much for the prayers you send our way.
I should explain, I am not a soldier. I am a retired civil servant. I was a Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for a bit over 25 years. I retired about six years ago. I traveled throughout 30 countries during my career and it was wonderful. So, I'm not sure why I retired so early...maybe because I bought a house on the pacific coast of Mexico on the spur of the moment. It's been all good.
I still have my house in Northern California and am blocks away from my sister, brother-in-law, mother, beau and three beautiful teenager nephews. Life is Good. Even though I was volunteering at my local police station working missing persons cases and sexual offender tracking, volunteering at a photography studio and volunteering at a Kayak store, I was bored. I just didn't feel my brain was being challenged. So last year (six years after I retired at 50) I decided I needed to get back into the field.
I currently work with the Human Terrain System which is an Army program. We conduct socio-cultural research for the military, mainly the Marines, with the hope that what we learn directly from the Afghans will resolve issues without the use of force (kinetics.) I left my home in California and family in June 2011 and attended training at Ft Leavenworth, KS for three months. From there I went to Ft Polk, LA where I underwent tactical training for three more months.
From there I was assigned to Forward Operating Base (FOB) ... , in the Province of Nimruz (Nimroz), Afghanistan. However, my unit travels throughout Nimruz and Helmand Province, mainly in the northern areas. We often participate in mounted (in convoys) and unmounted (walking) patrols. I was suppose to be here until mid-September but with the draw down, we are already preparing to dismantle all our buildings and move our equipment to another base. I am considering extending for an additional nine months. It won't be easy as my mother, who is 82 won't be very happy and neither will my boy friend of many years. I'll pray for guidance.
On another note, although I carry a pistol, which I did during my entire career with NCIS I thank God every day for our Marines. I trust and admire every single one of them. They are true professionals. I've never had any children, so it's often difficult to look at these incredible young men and woman and realize that even though they're too young to drink or vote they are keeping not only U.S. citizens safe but Afghans safe as well (although I'm not sure the Afghans always see it that way). I wish I could tell every parent, sibling, relative, and friend, that their Marines are true heroes and they are loved and appreciated by every single one of us out here.
In closing, I would like to say you are our hero, too. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. I hope you don't mind, but I took an extra three (one for each of my three teenage nephews) crosses. I mailed them with your little prayers and explained that someone whom they've never met cared enough for others to devote their time and energy and prayers for strangers. As for my cross, I have taped it inside my helmet.
God bless you and thank you again, With sincerest regards,
Wow. Grannie Annie is walking on air. Hers, and this whole community's, efforts to support our troops in Afghanistan are touching lives in a positive way. Ann works through the Adopt-A-Chaplain Program that sends boxes of items that our troops deployed to Afghanistan might need. At the moment she is sending to two chaplains that are located clear across Afghanistan from Nimruz Province. She and a friend hand make the ribbon cross bookmarks that the lady described, some 13,000 and counting to date, and sends quantities of them to be distributed to all the Chaplains associated with the Adopt-A-Chaplain organization. Those crosses are also included in the two boxes she sends each week to "her" Chaplains. A letter like the one above makes her feel that it is all worthwhile.
The lady that wrote expressed wonderful and I'm sure richly deserved praise for "her" Marines in the field. I'm wondering though where we get people like her and her civilian colleagues to embed and serve alongside our military in a war zone no less? The existence of the Army program named Human Terrain System was an entirely new concept for this old veteran. The impetus for the program came from lessons of Vietnam where we didn't exactly understand the local people we were trying to help.
A little research shows that currently teams of five to eight anthropologists and like specialties are formed to go out and rub elbows with the native peoples and then advise the military commanders in the field how to effectively work with those people in non-lethal ways. The lady that wrote used the term "kinetic" which is military lingo for bullets and bombs. The HTS teams through modern electronics have access to huge data bases to learn local customs, population distributions, tribal and local village relationships and more to help understand how to work with the indigent personnel. Evidently it has been quite effective in reducing our own casualties and enabling local Afghanistan government to be more effective at keeping the Taliban from retaking control as we draw down forces. It is a whole new world to me!
That is how I saw it.