Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Soul Debts

Yesterday, I was grateful to receive another card from my soldier in Iraq. He writes of many things in each greeting, but a consistent theme is his fear of a John Kerry win in the Presidential election. He has a good deal of company among his colleagues in the U.S. military in this particular apprehension.

Every time I write him, I tell him not to worry, that the country is not about to hand over our safety and security to the likes of “Cut-And-Run Kerry.” I hope I’m right, because the consequences of a Kerry win are too dreadful to contemplate.

It’s a tiny snapshot of a soldier’s life, my soldier’s monthly letter. Sometimes he tells me he is writing by flashlight at 2:00 AM. This time, he reports that the daily temperature is down to 120 degrees, from a high of 140 degrees in August. I imagine the uniform, the boots, the gear these troops must wear and carry in such heat, and I’m humbled that men and women I’ve never met would willingly, even gladly, suffer such hardship on my behalf.

Always, he thanks me. He thanks me for the packages, for the prayers, for the support. This soldier I have never met, who risks his life every moment to keep himself between the terrorists and America, thanks me. And his thanks bring me to tears, because there is no possible way for me to ever adequately thank him back.

They had a memorial service on 9/11, he writes, and he was glad. It helps them to remember why they are fighting. I must tell him, next letter, that I believe it’s likely that part of the reason there has not yet been a second 9/11 is because our military is keeping the terrorists rather busy in their own region.

Yesterday, it was 5:30 PM and he wrote that he and his unit were “going on patrol.” In closing, he asked me to “keep the prayers coming.” Immediately I complied, as I felt a cold chill shoot through me. Going on patrol, into God knows what peril. And he probably does this every day. I just happened to find out about it yesterday.

I’ve never met this man, or his guys, but I love them and I owe them. Every American owes them, whether they realize it or not. It’s a soul debt all civilian Americans must carry, this state of being beholden to our troops, and it can never be repaid. This is one debt that can only be acknowledged, remembered, and respected.

But I do have my monthly statement of what I owe. It comes in the form of a thank-you card, in an envelope postmarked Iraq, written in the hand of a hero.