and Now Americans Support Their Troops
Bob Dole and Lonnie Moore
Special to AFPS
of us were born more than 50 years and nearly 160 miles apart.
But we are connected to each other — and to so many of our
fellow Americans — in ways that easily surpass both age and
We were born
and raised in Kansas. Both of us are Army veterans. And both
of us nearly lost our lives on the
We were wounded
near Castel d’ Aiano, Italy, on April 14th, 1945; and in Ramadi,
Iraq, on April 6th, 2004, respectively. We were struck down
by Italian bullets and Iraqi rocket-propelled grenades almost
exactly 49 years apart.
of shared military experience, of circumstance and of history,
are eternally meaningful for the two of us and for millions
of other veterans.
We are sharing
our experiences on this Veterans Day, when we honor our brothers
in arms, to also pay tribute to our shared connection with
Americans on the home front, to the enduring power of their
letters and their packages and their contributions, to the
transcendent grace of their gratitude and prayers.
troops. It is a noble idea, and a long-standing American tradition.
And in the 50 years that separate the two of us, it has played
out in countless unique ways. But at its simplest and most
essential, it just means getting a letter from home.
Back in World
War II, letters that arrived in a week were considered speedy.
Today anyone can go to the Web site www.americasupportsyou.mil
to send a letter to a soldier abroad with just a click of the
mouse, and to read soldiers’ replies just as quickly.
Supports You Web site is much more than an electronic post
office. Created by the Department of Defense, it connects and
inspires ordinary Americans who are doing something to support
the troops, while at the same time amplifying the impact of
their efforts. It is, to borrow a military phrase, a "force
multiplier" for Americans on the home front.
to a soldier may seem a bit quaint today. But back in World
War II, few things were more disheartening for a soldier than
to go to mail call every day and never get a letter.
In Iraq today,
even soldiers without families back home get literally boxes
and boxes of letters from Americans in every corner of the
In the sometimes
lonely and always stressful nights of war, these notes of concern
and appreciation from complete strangers, from school children
in Wichita, Kansas, to elderly women in retirement homes, are
an immediate and necessary connection to home — they are a
reminder that our service has a national purpose.
But the connection
to home also has a, well, practical purpose. One that speaks
more to everyday comforts than to our deeper emotional needs,
but which many soldiers will tell you affects their morale
nearly as much.
Back in World
War II, we were lucky to get "goodie" packages filled
with sunflower seeds, candy, oranges, and even shoes. These
items were bought by parents and neighbors with their own food
coupons. Contributions were collected in cigar boxes on drug
America Supports You member organization like "Soldiers’
Wish List" mobilizes a virtual, internet-connected national "neighborhood" to
send soldiers mountains of cookies, DVDs, phone cards, video
games and even tooth brushes.
of this talk of letters and care packages seems a bit trivial
in a time of war. Maybe it is hard for Americans to understand
the real value of all their kind gestures and small gifts when
the context is conflict and war. But our own experience shows
that it is precisely the sober context that makes all the little
efforts of support so essential.
As we mentioned
at the beginning of this article, both of us had to recover
from life- and body- altering injuries. We can tell you that
whatever the medical technology, recovery and rehabilitation
are as much an emotional challenge as a physical one. It is
hard to put into words how important it was for us to hear
from ordinary Americans that despite the damage done to our
bodies, that we were still full persons whose sacrifice was
not only appreciated, but meaningful.
are as therapeutic to the injured as the tangible support –
big and small — provided by friends and strangers back home.
The cliché, in this case, is true. It is the thought
And as much
as the two of us are connected by our Kansas roots, and by
our military backgrounds, and by the shared experience of our
injuries, we share an even deeper connection with all of you
back home who in ways large and small let us know, then and
now, that Americans support their troops. Your support made
our service possible. And that’s as true today as it was 50
years ago. And just as necessary.
Senator Bob Dole was a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th
Mountain Division during World War II. Wichita native and retired
Army Capt. Lonnie Moore fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom with
the 1st Infantry Division. He now works outside of Washington,