Thanks to our sol­diers

The Covington News - - Newton At Play - Kari Apted Colum­nist Kari Apted may be reached at kari@kari­apted.com.

“I don’t know what’s so dif­fi­cult about it,” I grum­bled to my sis­ter yes­ter­day. “The Cof­fee Mate web­site says they still make pump­kin spice creamer, the stores have ev­ery other hol­i­day fla­vor imag­in­able, but not my pump­kin spice!”

I look for­ward to my fa­vorite fla­vored cof­fee ev­ery fall, but I’m too cheap to plunk down a fiver for a Star­bucks latte very of­ten. There are other brands of pump­kin spice creamer but none taste as good as Cof­fee Mate. I’ve been an­noy­ingly ver­bal about my un­hap­pi­ness over be­ing un­able to find it this sea­son.

Shortly af­ter our con­ver­sa­tion, I re­ceived an e-mail from some­one ask­ing me how to send care pack­ages to our sol­diers serv­ing over­seas. I sent them a link to Noanie.com, one of the very best sites for match­ing peo­ple with units that truly need our help.

How ashamed did I feel when I read that a unit de­ployed to Afghanistan was re­quest­ing cof­fee and creamer, fla­vored if at all pos­si­ble.

“Some of the sol­diers’ fam­i­lies don’t send them items so we all just share what we have. We are work­ing 12 or more hours a day 7 days a week and we just want some­thing to keep us more fo­cused on the mis­sion. We would also like to write peo­ple and have peo­ple write us. Thank you!”

Here are men and women serv­ing me, in a desert war zone, just want­ing some­thing, any­thing that’s a taste of home, and I have the au­dac­ity to whine be­cause out of the 20 or more fla­vored cof­fee cream­ers I could buy at that very moment, they don’t have the one I want?

I am such a wimp. Most of us are. And as a so­ci­ety, we’ve be­come so pa­thet­i­cally thank­less.

To­day, and the next two weeks lead­ing up to Thanks­giv­ing, I am writ­ing about grat­i­tude. Thurs­day is Vet­er­ans Day, and that’s a pretty good place to start.

Ac­cord­ing to the US Depart­ment of De­fense, ap­prox­i­mately 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans serves in the armed forces. That means that 99 of us get to walk in free­dom be­cause one per­son is out there do­ing the hard work we ei­ther can­not or will not do to keep our coun­try safe.

I come from a fam­ily with a long mil­i­tary his­tory, and have loved sev­eral men who have served: my grand­fa­thers, my un­cle, my hus­band. Both grand­fa­thers were in­jured in World War II. My un­cle lost an eye in Viet­nam. My hus­band brought home from Iraq shards of shrap­nel from an RPG that landed within feet of where he was stand­ing. And all of them came home men­tally changed — some might say scarred — for­ever.

When my hus­band came home from Iraq, driv­ing was one of the hard­est things for him. He’d been trained to no­tice ev­ery bit of lit­ter along the road­side, his eyes al­ways scan­ning for po­ten­tially hid­den bombs. I’d never thought about it be­fore then, but what a bless­ing to live in a coun­try where we don’t have to worry that ev­ery bit of de­bris along the road could po­ten­tially kill us.

Sure, crimes and aw­ful things hap­pen here in Amer­ica, but com­pared with the rest of the world we are in­cred­i­bly safe. And it’s be­cause of the men and women who serve us in the mil­i­tary and first re­spon­ders such as po­lice­men, sher­iff’s deputies, EMTs and fire­fight­ers. We owe all of them a huge debt of grat­i­tude.

What can we sac­ri­fice to say thanks? Or will we even con­sider paus­ing long enough to do that, as the hol­i­day sea­son bears upon us and dis­tracts us with con­stant busy­ness?

Tonight while I slide into my warm, soft bed, a sol­dier on the other side of the world crawls un­der a truck for a cat­nap be­fore head­ing out for an­other 24 hours on pa­trol. He takes a swig of warm, stale wa­ter from his can­teen, uses his fore­arm as a pil­low, and hopes that the spi­ders and scor­pi­ons as big as his hand will leave him alone to­day.

And all he asks is for some­one to take a few min­utes to send him some fla­vored cof­fee and a few words of en­cour­age­ment from home.

God help us all if we’re not ap­pre­cia­tive enough to do it.

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