ENCOURAGE OUR MILITARY
Cheering them On: How We Can
Actively Support Our Troops
By Linda Jewell
My son and his wife are stationed in Iraq.
I'm often asked, "How do you deal with it?"
What helps is a lesson I learned from watching basketball fans collectively
dubbed "The Sixth Man." That is, although the team can have only
five players on the court, sustained cheers or boos can influence whether
a team wins or loses. Therefore, the fans become the "sixth man"
on the court.
My son and daughter-in-law are not involved in a gamebut in life and
death struggles. They go places where I cannot go, in parts of the world unknown
to me. However, while they are far from home, I can encourage them in ways
that allow them to hear my roar of approval even to the ends of the earth.
Although I'm not "on the court" with them, I choose to see myself
as hopefulnot helplessbecause there are many things I can do.
- I can pray.
- I can mail letters and care packages.
- I can lend a hand to others on the home front.
- And I can be brave.
God gives us the gift of prayer.
I've prayed for my son all his life. However, the first time he was deployed
to a war zone, I ratcheted my prayers to a new level and began praying Psalm
91. I chose the Revised Standard Version because it sounds military. I couldn't
know how praying Psalm 91 might help my son, but I did know it calmed my nerves
as a mom of a young soldier stationed in a war zone.
I retyped Psalm 91 with line breaks to make it easier to remember and carried
it as I walked around the park. Memorizing Scripture was difficult for me,
but I can now pray Psalm 91 without peeking at my notes because I practiced
with persistence while pounding the pavement.
Knowing Scripture by heart comes in handy when I wake up at 2:00 a.m. and
start fretting about my son's safety. In the darkness I pray Psalm 91, talk
with Jesus, and picture Him watching over my son. I then drift back to sleep,
knowing he is in good hands.
In addition to praying Scripture, I've asked the Holy Sprit to nudge me when
my son and his wife need special prayers. Shortly after my daughter-in-law
deployed, I woke from a vivid dream of a young, intense soldier complete with
a crew cut and dressed in cammies coming toward me. With a thumping heart,
I slid out of bed and knelt by its side. I asked the Holy Spirit to intercede
and asked Jesus, "What do You want me to pray?" After praising God,
I felt a need to pray for Jesus to strengthen the hearts of my son, daughter-in-law,
and the soldiers around them. While getting ready for work, I saw news reports
from Iraq of bombings and mobs running amuck. A few days later my son e-mailed
to let me know he had been directly involved with what I'd seen in the news
but that he was okay, he loved me-and not to worry.
Mail Letters and I-Care Packages
Part of my heart is wrapped up in every letter and care package I mail.
I've written my son at least once a week for the past 14 years. At first
I felt awkward writing letters. Now it's a habitand my week is not complete
until I've shared some of it with him in a letter.
Over the years I've learned some things about writing letters. For instance,
I keep an ample supply of stamps and stationery handy. I've learned to ask
what my son wants and doesn't want and obey the rules of what can and can't
be mailed. I keep writing even when my son doesn't answer each letter. I also
share his address with others so my son won't be one of the unfortunate soldiers
who never receives a letter from home.
I don't want my son to forget us, so I've learned to be a "reporter"
to pass along news about family and friends. At my son's request, I give facts
but don't dwell on difficult news.
I also want my son and daughter-in-law to know they are not forgotten. I
include notes about anyone who asks about them and when grateful citizens
express their thanks for their service and their sacrifices.
I've read books about World War II concentration camp prisoners Corrie ten
Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who expressed great joy when they received care
packages. These stories inspire me to send packages-an active way of saying
"I care." Even if my son and daughter-in-law were stationed where
it is safe to run down to their local corner store, items such as power bars,
dry Gatorade®, and computer magazines in English aren't available. Most
important, each care package is a tangible reminder of my love for them.
Lend a Hand to Others
When I serve others I can't hold a pity party.
I have a choice. I can feel alone, helpless, and a victimor I can look
around and see where and how I can help others. I asked Jesus to connect me
with others I can walk with on this long road and to help me:
"Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
'Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on His way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He's on his way! He'll save you!' "
(Isaiah 35:3-4, The Message)
Even with my busy schedule, I can still reach out to others. I write to soldiers
who have no one else to write them. I scribble notes of encouragement to other
military moms. I pen thank-you notes to parents, wives, and children for their
sacrifices, too, while their loved ones are serving in the military. Often
these notes and letters are to people I've never met. However, I try to follow
the Golden Rule and write them a note I'd want to receive in their circumstances.
I also wrote a booklet and teach workshops to help others pen notes to their
loved ones who are far from home.
Bravery is a matter of the heart.
My son and I love to read and often share good books. Several years ago he
recommended Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. It's a historical novel about
300 Spartan warriors standing in the gap at Thermopylae against tens of thousands
under the command of Xerxes, King of Persia. When my son recommended the book
in a rare overseas phone call, he told me what impressed him most was not
only the bravery of the warriors, but also the bravery of the mothers and
wives who were left behind. Although my son has never asked me to be brave,
I feel my bravery on the home front will encourage my son-or at least not
distract him while he is stationed in a war zone.
Knowing that Jesus loves my son even more than I do gives me courage. I've
talked with other moms whose sons and daughters are deployed to Iraq. We'll
ask questions such as, "Where is he stationed?" or "What is
she doing?" We really don't know muchand our answers usually aren't
satisfying. But invariably one of us will say, "I know Jesus loves my
son (or daughter, as the case may be) even more than I do."
Also, knowing that Jesus has a plan for my son gives me courage. When my
son enlisted, I felt pensive, much like the day I watched him take his teacher's
hand and walk into his first-grade classroom. Watching him leave for the military
was an even larger letting go. However, the next morning while reading the
Bible, I knew that my son is right where God wants him. What has sustained
me all these years is God's assurance in Isaiah 58:8-9 (NKJV):
". . .your light shall break forth like the morning,
your healing shall break forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "
These days others are watching me deal with uncertainties and my own anxieties
and ask how I can deal with my son and his wife being in Iraq. For me, it
all comes back to the lesson I learned from watching basketball fans. Although
I cannot get into the action in my son and daughter-in-law's arena of life,
I am part of the force of "The Sixth Man."
I pray. I mail letters and I-Care packages. I reach out to others who are
also waiting for their loved ones to come home. And, most importantly, I ask
God for a brave heart. By doing these four things I can give a roar of approval
that reaches around the worldand encourages my soldiers to do their
Linda LaMar Jewell believes that life is about loveit's
really about relationships. She speaks about relationship issues
and teaches letter-writing and journaling workshops for adults
and children at retreats, businesses, churches, and schools. Linda
is the Manager of Seminars for CLASServices, which trains Christian
speakers and writers. Linda and her husband live in Albuquerque,
New Mexico. Her adult son and a daughter-in-law are currently
serving in Iraq.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.