This morning, The Old Bastards had a guest speaker. It doesn't happen often. We usually don't tolerate much foolishness. This time were gave the speaker our rapt attention. He is another retired military guy who had an interesting story to tell, complete with a slide presentation.
Have you ever made the statement, "I support our troops."? You may or may not support the war, but you do support the troops. At least that is what I believe. Most of the folks I talk with support the troops. If that is so, what have they done to show that support? Have they put the yellow ribbon magnet on your car? Some of may even have done some other things. Some of may even have a relative or friend who is involved in the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. If that is the case they may very well have done something tangible to make the soldier's life a bit easier.
My guess is that most of us want to provide support, but don't have an outlet to do that. And that brings me back to this morning's presentation. Gary is a retired Army officer who served some tours in Viet Nam. About 40 years ago he was a young Lieutenant serving in one of the provinces in I Corps. Their job was to ferret out the VC, and their weapons caches. You may remember that one of the slogans of the day was "winning the hearts and minds of the people." That slogan still has currency.
Anyway, Gary recounted knocking down the door to a Vietnamese home. Usually upon such an entrance the place is vacant. On this occasion there was a young girl cowering in the corner crying for fear of her life. This haunts Gary to this day. Perhaps it brought him to his subsequent actions. During that tour he noticed that all of the school buildings in his area of operation (AO) were always vacant. He discovered the primary reason for this was that they had no school supplies. He immediately wrote to his wife about it and they were able to send him around 4,000 pound of supplies. When his Brigade Commander learned of it, Gary was called in to discuss it. The commander had the foresight to understand the results of such action. Gary was told to keep up the work. As a result of this action the number of American casualties in Gary's AO were drastically reduced. And that brings us to today's presentation.
What better way to support our troops than to provide them the wherewithal to help the children of Iraq and Afghanistan? Gary has been corresponding with a young Captain who was serving in Afghanistan. This young man mentioned that a young girl in his AO made the statement, "Please, help us to learn. It will give us hope." This was translated from the girls language into English. From that story "Help us learn...Give us Hope, Inc." was formed. Gary collects school supplies, notebooks, backpacks, pencils, crayons, money, etc. He sends the supplies to US soldiers. The soldiers then distribute them directly to the children. In Afghanistan they must be given to the village chief. The Afghani culture doesn't allow giving anything to the children directly. But even here there are soldiers who are overseeing the distribution. It has paid dividends. Most importantly, this action has helped give hope to many children. They are even seeing women in their 30's coming to school. Secondarily, the soldiers are getting more information concerning the location of IED's, weapons and explosive caches, and bomb making facilities. This is giving direct support to the soldier. It also helps us to be true allies to folks who need this kind of support.
Right now all of the collecting, sorting, packaging and shipping are being done by Gary and his wife from their home in Manhattan, KS. No one, not him, his wife nor the members of his board get any payment from the monies collected. It all goes to the service of the soldiers and primarily the children. Gary did mention that the one important thing about this effort that is different from other well known charities, here the materials go to soldiers who see that it goes directly to the children. The other charities might mention that they have representatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more times than not, materials distributed by them end up in the bazaars on sale.
Gary's organization will have its web site up and operational soon. When it does there will be a link to it here. I hope you will find it in your hearts to ask more about it and to get your schools and churches involved. Another thrust of the effort is to have children communicate with children. Many pen pals have been formed so far.