Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAO
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – It was in Frank Capra’s 1946 classic,“It’s A Wonderful Life” that the saying, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets their wings” was popularized.
During this holiday season, the saying could be, “Every time someone sends a letter to a FOB Falcon Soldier, an angel gets their wings.”
In this case, the “angels” are fellow Americans from the Soldiers’ Angels Organization.
Soldiers with the 15th Brigade Support Battalion’s Supply Support Activity are corresponding with people from all over the United States through letters and e-mails.
“I just wanted someone to write to me,” said Pfc. Marisela Tapia, an automated logistical supply specialist assigned to Company A from Anaheim, Calif. “I went to the Internet café and read the story [on the website]. That’s when I decided to sign up, and one week later, I received a letter.”
It was her supervisor, Staff Sgt. Amador Aguillen, an automated logistical supply specialist, who brought most of his team on board with the program. “It’s really quick, and it’s really good for the Soldiers,” said the San Antonio native. “It’s good that they are supporting what we do here.”
According to its website, Soldiers’ Angels was started by a mother whose son was deployed to Iraq in 2003. He would write letters to his mother expressing his concern about fellow Soldiers who would not receive any mail from home. She decided not to allow a situation like that to continue. So, she contacted a few friends and extended family and asked if they could write to a Soldier or two.
Within a few short months, the Soldiers' Angels went from a mother writing a few extra letters to an Internet community with thousands of angels worldwide and growing stronger with the addition of new members daily. With more and more merchants donating services, money and items for packages, the Angels reorganized as a nonprofit organization, making all donations tax deductible.
Soldiers' Angels currently supports thousands of American service members stationed wherever the U.S. flag is flown and the number is growing daily. Soldiers' Angels are dedicated to ensuring that the military knows they are loved and supported during and after their deployment into harms way.
For Tapia, her angel is a former Soldier of six years. A California native herself, Tapia's pen pal was an Army staff sergeant who also served abroad. Tapia said because of that and that she’s also a female in California, she feels they are connected. Most of all, Tapia said she is very appreciative of the gifts her angels sent to her last week in a care package. “It makes me feel really good that someone would go out of their way for a total stranger and show some love and support,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s just the littlest things … it makes you feel a lot better.”
In appreciation, Tapia went to the base camp’s post exchange and searched around for a greeting card that would express the way she felt about her new friend. “I got her this Christmas card that reads, ‘People like you make the season a little nicer.’ It’s so cute that I don’t want to write on it. So, I’m going to write a letter and put it inside,” she explained.
She said the first letter cheered her up. Like the Soldiers who Soldiers’ Angels was originally founded for, Tapia receives almost no mail from family or friends. “A lot of people were getting mail, and no one was writing me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is this what the year’s going to be like?'"
Like many new Soldiers, this is Tapia’s first holiday season away from home. She said working constantly is the only thing that has distracted her from being too homesick. “I just work, so it doesn’t seem like the holidays,” she said. “It’s not like home where you see all the lights, get in your car and visit your friends … the sales with the discounts.”
Although she’s far away from home, she said she can’t help but to feel good because of her new friend. “It just makes me feel good, though,” she said about what her Soldiers’ Angel has done for her and her section. “I mean, even though she’s at home with her family, she's still thinking about other people. I just think it’s really nice, and I’m grateful that there’s an organization that tries to make it better for Soldiers having a hard time out here.”
I joined Soldiers' Angels shortly after it was founded. Over the duration of the OIF and OEF, I have adopted MANY Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen. Some have become friends and a few have become family. Our first adopted Soldier has become family. We supported her through her deployment, attended her wedding and then her husband through his - he just returned in November. Next week, they will be here visiting for ten days. As with all gifts you give, the rewards more often than not outweigh the gift. Being involved with this organization has given us much love, and has been a boost to the morale of our military. I would encourage everyone to get involved in support activities! There are many organizations listed to the left.