“The Price of Freedom”
By Russ Taff
I was born on Veteran’s Day. We were a pretty patriotic family, and the story goes that my parents almost named me Armistice, which is another name for that day in November when Americans honor their fallen soldiers. My dad served in Germany during WWII, and he met and married mom when he was stationed at the old Army-Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In the early 70’s, two of my older brothers, Marvin and Danny, received the news that their numbers had come up in the draft lottery. So after a few weeks of basic training, they both shipped off to Vietnam.
I was in elementary school during those years, and my ‘alarm clock’ every morning was the sound of my parents in the living room of our narrow, shotgun house, pacing back and forth praying for their boys before dad left for work. (He was a Pentecostal preacher, so those prayers were loud!)
Danny and Marvin couldn’t tell us exactly where they were stationed of course, but we kept a big map of Vietnam on our kitchen wall with colored pins marking some of the places they had been. This was the first time a war had ever been televised, and I remember mom leaning forward in her chair during the nightly news, scanning the blurry combat footage for a glimpse of one of her sons. Eventually, miraculously, both of my brothers made it back alive; but the men that returned were very different than the 19 year-old boys that had left.
Because Vietnam was such a controversial and unpopular war, my brothers were not welcomed home with parades or hailed as heroes. In the years following their return, I watched Marvin and Danny struggle and become increasingly bitter as they dealt with what I now know was depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They had also both repeatedly been exposed to the toxic defoliant called Agent Orange, and to this day they suffer from all kinds of weird physical problems that the VA doctors can’t identify and don’t know how to treat. Serving their country changed my brother’s lives forever, and cost them their youth, their innocence and their health. Not all casualties of war are in the graveyard.
Every year (on my birthday), America pauses to show honor, respect and gratitude for our military veterans. This year I’d like to invite you to also remember the men and women who are currently serving in the armed forces by participating in a program called Holiday Mail for Heroes.
The American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes are partnering to give all of us the opportunity to send a touch of home this holiday season to members of the military, veterans and their families. The process is very simple and takes no time at all– you just need a pen and a holiday card. Then you write a brief note expressing your appreciation for the sacrifices our Armed Forces are making to protect our freedoms.
Please send all mail to:
Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Every card received will be screened for hazardous materials by Pitney Bowes and then reviewed by Red Cross volunteers working around the country. Please observe the following guidelines to ensure a quick reviewing process:
All cards being sent in for 2011 Holiday Mail For Heroes program should be postmarked no later than Friday, December 9, 2011.
Ensure that all cards are signed.
Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals cannot be delivered through this program.
Only cards are being accepted. Do not send letters.
Do not include email or home addresses on the cards, as the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos, as these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
Participants should limit the number of cards they submit to 25 from any one person or 50 from any one class or group. If you are mailing a large quantity, please bundle the cards and place them in large mailing envelopes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
Please refrain from sending holiday cards with glitter. Many of these cards will be delivered to military and veterans medical facilities and the glitter could interfere with a patient’s recovery
Thank you for joining me in honoring our armed forces!
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