Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Victor T.

That’s what the slip of paper had written on it. It was hanging on the Christmas tree at my gym. Each slip had a name of a solider serving in Iraq with a few of his/her interest and hobbies. If we wanted to participate, we could select a slip and then bring in a stocking with some useful and fun items for that particular soldier – You know, beef jerky, socks, shampoo.

I choose Victor because I noticed he wrote he liked “Classic” movies on his slip of paper. Well, classic and action movies, as well as hunting and pudding. But that seemed enough like a kindred spirit that I took the slip off the tree.

I told my daughter about the project and we both got excited about doing something for someone else at Christmas time. We started calling Victor, “Our Solider”.

I kept the slip in my car where it seemed less likely to get lost in the avalanche of paper that intrudes my home daily. As I drove around on my endless errands I could see it wedged right behind the gearshift. Seeing it made me think of Victor. I wondered about his family, if he was young or younger, if he was scared or if he had learned to be impervious to what was going on around him.

When I had procrastinated long enough, my daughter and I went to Target and loaded up on the beef jerky, socks, hand warmers, pudding, other suggested items, and yes movies. I gave him what I think to be the most classic of classic movies-- Casablanca, and then some action movies for good measure. My daughter insisted that we give him Sponge Bob band-aids, and although it seemed to me that a band-aid might be the least of his worries, I tucked it in. We got so much stuff we had to get two stockings and tie them together. Even still I was pounding stuff into those stockings before we returned it to the gym before they shipped all the stockings off to Iraq.

Of course, I had to turn the little slip of paper in with the stocking, otherwise they wouldn’t know who to give it to. I was kinda sorry to do it. Having that little slip of paper in my car was like having a tiny bit of Victor there. It made me think about him. It made me think about a lot of things.

Outside of a few kids from our ward that I don’t know very well, I don’t really know anyone who is serving in Iraq. Getting that stocking ready for Victor made me feel connected with Iraq, made it real. As awful as war is, I think for us to forget about it here in our life of soft warm beds and singing Christmas Snowmen is even more awful.

Other than a few likes and hobbies, I don’t know that much about Victor. And of course he knows even less about me. He could pass me on the street and wouldn’t have a clue. But the thing about is, in spite of that, he has agreed to take a bullet for me. It’s a debt I can never repay. If I stuffed those stockings full of $100 bills I could never repay what I owe him. What I owe every soldier who is serving.

No matter what side of the aisle you stand on I think we all need to remember Victor, and every other soldier. It’s no small thing this contract they have with us. They are willing to endanger their life and well being for the good of our country, to go and serve and not question why but just do. The trust they put in us to not take that for granted, to not treat it like blank check… It’s a heavy burden, at least it should be. They are all “Our Soldiers”. We shouldn’t treat them any differently than we would our own sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews.

I miss Victor. Actually, I’m really hoping he’ll write. I like feeling connected to the war somehow. I like feeling that I can make a small difference, even if it’s just one person. I wonder if that is how Victor feels too—that even just one person can make a difference.

He has made a difference. He may just be socks, pudding and classic movies on a slip of paper, but he made a difference to me.