Warning! This is not my usual light-hearted wise-ass blog. Wise-ass blogs will resume immediately following this piece, I promise.
Today when I got to work, I had several emails waiting for me on the computer. Most were the usual stuff, but one stood out. It was from that guy. You know that guy, that person at your job who is constantly sending you preachy emails in the name of some personal crusade he’s on.
Today’s email was about how the media spends all of its time documenting the poor life choices and general tragedies of the likes of Charlie Sheen, Whitney Houston and Lindsey Lohan, while ignoring the following 20 or so names of servicemen and women who were killed in active duty last month. I don’t doubt that the names of these soldiers were accurate, and I already know that the media’s obsession with Hollywood bad-boys and bad-girls is rabid. I am also aware that as a culture, we are too wrapped up in the shallow lifestyles of celebrities. The email up to that point was spot-on as far as I was concerned.
The next part is the confusing and frustrating part for me. The email went on to instruct me to re-send it to at least 10 more people to show my support for the troops and their sacrifices for our country. I want to understand how this will work. Do soldiers come home from a tour of duty and get shown the hundreds or thousands of email posts in their honor? Assuming they see the emails at all, does it make it easier to find a job, heal from wounds or go on with life? Does forwarding an email to 10 (or 10,000,000) people make any difference to the people who need support? Sure, we’ll all be a little more aware of soldiers fighting for our country in Afghanistan and serving all over the world, but again, how does our increased awareness mean anything in terms of support?
How exactly does an Army private, hunkered down in the sand thousands of miles from home with zealots trying to kill him with roadside bombs benefit from this email? Does the fact that an additional 10 people being aware of this sacrifice make it any better for the families of those who were killed?
Computers are wonderful things. I’m old enough to recall what the world was like before every man, woman and child had at least one of them. I remember writing letters, by hand, to family, to girlfriends, to old friends. I can still think back to typing papers in college, trying desperately to avoid typos and working to get the footnotes right. With computers, even a hack typist like me can crank out all sorts of slick-looking documents. I can write emails and then send them to hundreds or thousands of people with the click of a few keys.
If I can do it, so can everyone else reading this, and probably faster. Which brings me back to my original question: what difference does it make? The answer is: it doesn’t make a difference. It gives people the false sense of accomplishment that they’re not part of the lazy, apathetic horde. Get it straight, you haven’t done a single thing, except bothered 10 friends and made them feel guilty if they don’t forward your email on.
A few weeks ago, I was at the local convenience store. There was a gentleman behind me dressed in his desert fatigues. He was buying a bottle of Gatorade. I gave the clerk my money and said “Get his too please”. The soldier was confused and offered his thanks. I declined his thanks and offered mine instead before walking out the door. Please do not equate a bottle of sports drink as being anything but a tiny speck of a gesture of my appreciation. I’m not patting myself on the back here, but that stinking bottle of Gatorade was more than the masses of point-n-clickers did with that dopey email.
I’ve received many emails over the years, asking me to forward 10 or 12 or however many copies to my friends and family for any number of causes. I’ve never been able to grasp how doing so will help anyone fight cancer, or MS, or support the troops.
May I suggest an alternate method of supporting the troops?
Wikipedia lists over 90 Veterans Groups from Confederate Survivors all the way up to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
Here are a few links, I just found them, then cut and pasted with my magical computer in less time than it took you to read these words. I did no research, I just picked a few. If you don’t like them, type “Veteran Support Group” into your own search engine and choose one you like.
If you’re wary of giving money to an organization for fear that it will never get to those who need it, then give some of your time, or used clothes or canned goods or whatever. If you don’t care to do anything, that’s your right as well (no lecture on your rights). If you’d rather channel your money or time towards curing cancer or feeding the homeless, those search engines will work for that too. But whatever you do, don’t kid yourself into thinking that hitting the “forward” key 10 times is going to mean a damn thing. How about we get off our collective asses?
12 thoughts on “Point – Click – What?”
When I got back from Iraq in 2004 after a year deployment, I found myself working in a large office complex. Manny co-workers would send me these email chains of Photo Tributes of the War. These people meant well in what they did but I never did open the emails and deleted them as soon as I received them. Out of 80 such emails that I have received over the years not one of them was sent by a fellow combat Vet. I am not sure why a stray away from those types of emails. I honor those that sever by serving. I try to volunteer when i can. My boys and I have a family tradition to go to the local War Memorial on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and shake the hands of Veterans and thank them for their service. Well stated post, thanks for sharking.
Don’t thank me. Thank you. I’m honored that you took the time to read it, and pleased that you enjoyed it.
Great post. Last summer, we visited family in Minnesota. After leaving a restaurant for lunch, I couldn’t figure out what happened to my husband. He joined us outside a few minutes later. I asked what took so long, and he said he went to the till to pay for another table’s bill. It was a soldier on leave and his family. Such a small thing, but it was his way of thanking the soldier. Warmed my heart right up, it did! 🙂
glad you enjoyed it.
Dave, Just the thought means a lot. As someone who spent more than ten years overseas in uniform, it is nice to know that people care. I see lots of people in uniform and many who have been horribly mangled at a very young age. It is important to recognize them and remember that they are a part of your community and not just the community in Oceanside, CA or Fayetteville, NC. A lot of the sacrifice is not seen outside of the mainstream military communities or the small towns and hard-up cities from which many of these kids come from. My brother lives in Mendham and I think that they have seen as many Martians as military people there and have no real view on to the suffering and sacrifice that many of these veterans have been through. We will be spending many years with the veterans of these most recent conflicts and it is vitally important that we re-integrate these people into society as quickly and as completely as possible–both to thank them for what they have done and to let them know they have a lot to contribute to our society and country in the future.
Hey Brendan…The thought means a lot, but I hope you got my message that clicking on emails is not nearly enough of an effort for any good cause. Certainly supporting veterans and their families is a good cause. It pains me to imagine that somewhere out there, some boob is feeling patriotic for sending chain-emails. By the way, thanks for your service.
Yes, of course….Wounded Warriors Foundation…Taking care of the wounded and headed up by a West Point classmate of my brother. No time for chain emails…or those from Nigeria.
In agreement completely…I automatically delete almost anything that attempts to “guilt” me into passing it to 10 friends. And as far as what we can collectively do, every little bit helps; even if it’s just a bottle of Gatorade…
That reminds me…I really must call the Vets truck to come pick up my bags of clothes & whatnots…thanks for the reminder buddy!
glad to help…by the way, nice pic, you little minx. Feel free to forward my link to anyone and everyone you feel like. They’ll have no obligation to forward 10 emails, but maybe they’ll help a vet some other way.
Watched Jon Stewart last night, Shaun Donovan(Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) said that one in five homeless people are veterans.
From the WaPo today…
March 14, 2012
The Heartbreak Of Section 60
By Dana Milbank
On a flawless spring morning, President Obama stood in the Rose Garden to urge against a hasty retreat from Afghanistan.
“We have a strategy that will allow us to responsibly wind down this war,” he said Tuesday, resisting the calls for a quick exit that were prompted by the slaying of Afghan civilians by a rogue U.S. soldier on Sunday. “Already we’re scheduled to remove 23,000 troops by the end of this summer, following the 10,000 that we withdrew last year.”
A few minutes after Obama spoke those words, I crossed the Potomac to visit with some of those who have already come home, under circumstances nobody wanted. After a decade of wars, more than 800 of them now rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Most of them are in Section 60, where I counted 21 rows of headstones of the Iraq and Afghanistan war dead, beginning with Staff Sgt. Brian Craig, killed in Kandahar in April 2002. On Tuesday afternoon, Section 60 got its newest resident, 23-year-old Sgt. William Stacey, killed on foot patrol on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
They buried him — near a young magnolia tree that will shade his headstone in future years — with the too-familiar rituals: white horses, wooden caisson, marching platoon, rifle volleys, Taps. There were the tearful parents, the grief-stricken fiancee, the teenage sister holding flowers and the cremated remains of a young man who left behind an open-in-case-of-death letter.
“My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all,” he wrote. “But there is a greater meaning to it.”
Washington is debating that greater meaning and whether all the trouble — the civilian killings, the Koran burnings, the feckless Karzai government — justify continued fighting in Afghanistan even though al-Qaeda has been routed and public opinion on the conflict has soured. There’s no good answer, but no policymaker should make a decision about the war without strolling through Section 60. Its rows tell the story of this generation’s wars: A few headstones from Afghanistan quickly yield to monuments mostly from Iraq; then, toward the end, the Afghanistan dead return.
Among stones topped by crosses, Stars of David and the occasional crescent, a makeshift museum has been built by friends and family of the fallen. A helium balloon boasting “30” floated above the tombstone of Thomas J. Brown, whose 30th birthday would have been Tuesday; he died in 2008 in Iraq, and his grave had a fresh arrangement of pink roses, yellow daisies and white gladioluses, with a note: “Miss you. Love always, Mom.” A photo taped to the back of his headstone showed him smiling in his combat helmet two days before his death.
Arlington authorities, perhaps recognizing the significance of Section 60 and its young dead, have exempted the graves from their policy against decorations. On Tuesday, there were purple Mardi Gras beads, crosses fashioned from toothpicks, laminated photos, heart stickers, decorative stones, pinwheels, plush toys, a can of chewing tobacco, a marathon finisher’s medal, a plastic leprechaun hat, even a cat-shaped yard ornament. A red T-shirt at one grave said, “R.I.P. Big Mac.” A seashell was inscribed: “To my big brother. Love, Your little sister XOXO.”
A prayer to Joan of Arc decorated the grave of a young woman killed in Iraq. On the stone of Sgt. Karl Campbell, an Army ranger who fell in 2010 at age 34, is a school photo of his son, missing a front tooth, and a letter in a plastic bag, to “my best friend always.”
Among the most heartbreaking is the stone of Spec. Douglas Jay Green, killed in Afghanistan in August at age 23. A Valentine’s Day card had a quotation from Hermann Hesse, “If I know what love is, it is because of you,” and a handwritten message: “Doug, This year you would have been home for Valentine’s Day. . . . But I have to remind myself that ‘could haves’ and ‘would haves’ were never supposed to be.”
Nearby, an older couple sat on fresh sod, grieving over a soldier buried so recently there was no headstone. They stepped aside as the caisson approached with Sgt. Stacey’s remains. The young man, the son of college professors, was to have returned to Camp Pendleton by now, his overseas deployments done. He planned to attend a Marine Corps ball in April with his fiancee.
Instead, she joined Stacey’s sister and parents in accepting folded flags Tuesday afternoon from a sergeant major on bended knee. Among those paying their respects were several young Marines, one in a wheelchair.
In the letter to his family, Stacey wrote of his service: “If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.”
The nation must soon decide whether Stacey’s hope remains true.