October 12, 2006

Name: CAPT Lee Kelley
Posting date: 10/12/06
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Milblog url:
E-mail: [email protected]

When you’re in Iraq, mail becomes paramount.

No longer do you grab the stuff in your mailbox with the monotony that consumes after years and years of junk mail and coupons you’ll never use. The walk to the mailbox is not a mechanical part of your day anymore. No more is your mail a constant trickle of companies reminding you that you owe them money. Mail becomes a miniature Christmas, a small token or package or gift from a magical land far away that now seems kind of fuzzy in your memory, like Santa and his reindeer through the glass of a child’s globe which has just been shaken and presents you with a snowy winter-scape. A quickening of the spirit occurs when you receive a letter or package from your friends and family back in the United States. It must be how one would feel receiving a message in a bottle after being shipwrecked on an island for years. This simile may be a stretch, but you get my drift.

Whether you are a true patriot, and you bleed red, white, and blue, or you are simply here because duty came knocking at your door, and you have some honor and some pride in what you do, it feels really good to receive thoughts and prayers from all of you back home.

You may be cooking one of us some home-made brownies this morning in a snug little town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as you sip your Colombian coffee and enjoy watching the fog rise up off the slopes through your window, thinking about your son or daughter who is deployed in the Middle East.

You may send a photo of yourself snowboarding at The Canyons in Park City, Utah, and write “I missed you on the lift tonight,” or some other inside joke in black marker right across the mountainous scene in the background to your friend in Iraq.

You may be retired. You may be a veteran, or a veteran of a foreign war. You may have been sitting in your living room just today writing a letter of appreciation on your favorite stationary and licking the seal and sending it to one of your grandchildren over here.

You may be a guy in Detroit who recently sent one of my Sergeants some new boots and a carton of smokes. He signed up on to "sponsor" a soldier deployed overseas.

You may be a child, writing a letter in first period to a soldier from your hometown. We love the flags that you draw us in crayon or magic marker, coloring so carefully inside the lines. And we enjoy the intelligent letters you send us, wondering what it is like over here and if we are scared.

Whoever you are, and regardless of your political interests, or your feelings about the military or war or violence or our Commander in Chief, or Iraq, or Muslims, or the current stock market trends, we appreciate your support. Regardless of your favorite color, your skin color, the type of car you drive, your age, the college you went to, your lack of education, or your bad attitude towards teenagers and video games, we still thank you.

Because we are you. We are the American people, temporarily displaced for a spell in the Middle East. We exemplify virtually every race, class, profession, and opinion that you do over there across the pond. We’re just fighting right now, that’s all. We've been pulled away from “normal” life to serve our country as millions have done for America in past conflicts. Some of us believe in the political machines that nudge entire nations into war, and some of us just believe in ourselves and each other and doing the duty we raised our hand and swore to do.


Dear Captain Kelley,
I just found this blog today and was struck at your words. I was especially taken with the fact that all of you over there represent all of us here. Regardless of our political views or whatever. I am thinking of all of you over there and wishing for your prompt return to 'normal' life.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for dignifying a choice so that your children or grandchildren might not have to.

I was at once touched by your wit and candor and I want you to know, you are appreciated and prayed for, and respected because of what you do. It has nothing to do with our current American political environment (or any opinions I may have of it) but everything to do with integrity---yours---and the integrity of those who serve with you.

Thank you for reminding me that freedom isn't free.

Z Blair, Austin, Texas, USA

This post is really terrific and should be on the front page of every newspaper. I look forward to reading more of your blog and of the "Sandbox" which led me to it.
thanks for your perspective,

God bless you and thank you, Captain Lee. Your comments have encouraged me to begin corresponding to soldiers again. Our Church is praying for your safe return and we are so thankful for those of you who are there representing our country and helping the people there in midldle east. Although the media focuses on the deaths, I know there is alot of good going on and thank you for your part and sacrifices. God bless you and keep you always.

In Christ love,

I must have shipped at least a thousand packages to an APO/FPO address in the past year alone. I'm a trainer for a large online retailer that probably ships a hundred-thousand a year to service men and women; I tell every new employee that I train to always treat the packages shipping to APO addresses with a little bit more care than all of the rest--but until I read this blog today, I didn't really have anything besides "because they're over there" to say about why we I do.

Thank you for that.

~Gift-Wraping with care in Ohio~

Please know that ALL the U.S. soldiers are sincerely appreciated in their efforts, wherever they are located. Your sometimes deadly work makes it safer for us at home and we are well aware that your diligence is the only wall between us and an army of terrorists.
God's blessings to you all.


Thank you for your service.

I am a Vietnam vet and I understand exactly how you feel about the mail and any communication to you from the "WORLD". While I counseled our government not to get into this mess, I certainly support and have nothing but praise for you all out there in Iraq.

what's up......
sitting in class room in Newark, New Jersey

just wanted to say GOD BLESS

I often wonder when I send those frequent letters, magazine articles, and packages to my soldier son in Iraq whether or not he opens them with a laugh and thinks "Mom, you are so weird". Your writing convinced me to keep sending them every couple of days...that he really might enjoy them .. that they might be a bit of sanity in his otherwise crazy day! Thanks - Stay Safe

I totally disagreed with the war and I have nothing but contempt for Bush. But I wholeheartedly support you, I think of you and the hell we sent you to, the ordeals you go through and the strength you hide. We love you and we want you back home sound and safe.

Seeing real comments from real soldiers brings the war home for those of us without someone over there. GOD bless and come home safe soon!

Thank you for the post on the importance of mail. My friend's husband is in the Sandbox and although she sends him mail from Germany, and her family and me from back home in Pennsylvania send frequently, HIS family only sent him one package when he first arrived. Since that time, he hasnt heard from them. She and I wrote an email, similar to what you just wrote, and sent it to his family members to remind them of the importance of mail to the morale of anyone far from home. I will be sending her the link to your post so she can pass it on to HIS family. Maybe, it will get some results! Your post needs to be printed in every newspaper in America!

I went to, signed up, picked a soldier, read his "wish list", went shopping... and the site doesn't offer anything he asked for! Are there other sites are available where I can get a soldier's "wish list" and then go shopping and mail him/her what she needs or wants?

I want to commend you on your story about mail, regular mail.. not email. And you are right, it is very special, even to us that are doing the sending. Thank you for your insight, and Godspeed!

Dear Captain Kelley,
After reading your post I was touched and moved. Enough so as to go online and through the site mentioned in your post donate a pair of boots and jacket and pants to a female serving in Afghanastan. Not an easy feat, being a college student, but the money is so much better spent helping someone out there who is trying to make a difference in this world. You and all the soliders are in my prayers. May you all come home soon and safely.
Noreen Henry

I cannot express my appreciation for your dedication to our freedom and well being. I thank you with all of my heart - you and your soldiers are truly an inspiration to us all.

Dear Captain Kelly,

Thank you for your eloquent words. I grew up during Viet Nam with two of my brothers serving in the Navy. I remember weekends when my sister, my mom and myself would bake dozens of cookies, pack them up as safely as we could and send them off with prayers and hope that the cookies would find them safe. We tried to send enough for all their friends as well. They would in turn send us letters thanking us profusely. Anything from home was good....they called it a lifeline. Please take care and stay safe. I will NEVER forget your sacrifice.

I just wanted to thank you for what you said. It's a shame that there are people in our country who only think of military people as "machines" (for lack of a better word). It's hard for them to imagine someone having pride enough in themselves and in their country to stand up and do what is right, for what you believe or may not believe in. But, I am confident that maybe...just maybe, you have opened their eyes just a little..enough to show them..that you are just like them...and that because of you, they have the chance to voice their opinion..they have the chance to be heard..or to sit down...they are free to make their own decisions..whether they agree with what is going on..or not...the choice is theirs and it's because of you.....thank you. Thank you for taking the time to try and show the rest of the world that you are human...that you think and feel just like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of have a job to that you chose to protect us. Thank you.

Dear Captain Kelly,
I read your post and all the comments to date. Everything I thought of saying has already been said in the responses to your post. Everything you said brought back memories of my time in the Navy in the 70s.
I remember every "mailcall" was a collage of emotions for most of my shipmates and me. There was the excitement of receiving "something" from the real world and the sometimes the deep depression of receiving "nothing". You have a way with words that inspires people; I hope you never lose that ability.
Christmas is coming up, I know not every guy or gal in the service celebrates Christmas or is Christian. But it would really make their day to just get a card. I hope your words will inspire people to do that. It is a very emotional time for a lot of people in the service.
I pray that God will enable ALL leaders involved to find a Peaceful resolution to this conflict.
I wish you a safe return to your home and family.

PS. Maybe we should also send cards to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan asking that God keep them and their family safe and out of harm's way.

Thank you for your post. Just wanted you to know that my thoughts and prayers are with you all over there... Even though I do not agree with the reasoning for going to war, I DO SUPPORT our young men and women that are sacrificing so much to be there on our behalf. All throughout the days, I pray for your safety and for God to give you strength to get through it and get you safely back home where you belong!


Wow. Just wow.

That is one of the most eloquent things I've read. An amazing piece of writing.

I don't believe you should be over there, but I completely respect what you are doing and I wish you (and all the troops) the absolute best of luck. You guys have all my blessings.

And may I suggest something?

Keep writing. You're talented. Never be afraid to let your voice be heard. People will listen and appreciate it.

I'd like to say I understand what you are feeling, but I can only imagine. Everything we take for granted is very special, and I'm proud you and your comrades are there. Although I don't agree politically, I would stand side by side with you very proudly. For my 12 year old daughter, I thank you.

Hello, Thank you for your beautifully written note. I have since sponsored a soldier from New York. I am hoping to correspond with her. I'd like to understand and support our troops. I plan on sending some of the creative supplies she has requested (paint brushes, canvas, paint). Without your blog I would not have had the insight. Thank you and God Bless. Come home soon!

Thanks for the link. I just found out about The Sandbox while reading Doonesbury in the bathroom on a Sunday morning when I had nothing more to worry about other than having enough toilet paper.

I have been so enlightened by what I have read so far, and have just begun. I am guilty of getting caught up in going to work, bitching about bills, wondering what to wear, and watching senseless TV while you all are risking your lives so that we have this wonderful life that I am not thankful enough for.

I plan on sponsoring someone, as well as passing that link on to as many people as I can at work.

I can't thank you enough for what you all do for us.

Captin Kelly, godbless ya'll, not a day goes by that i don't pray for all of ya. being a navymom i worry for ya'll. i send snail mail and email, just about every day.I want to thank you for what you are doing, without hero's like you and your guys i could not sleep at night.I know it is hard to be away from your family.but if ya'll don't take care of these terroist they will indeed follow yoiu home. so keep your head low and be safe.

You summed up a lot in your final paragraph - and the moral of the story is every individual plays a small role in what is the big picture. Perform your duty in a professional manner and be a decent human being, and people will view you with respect - and when you multiply that by everyone, it should make people look at America in a good light.

I'm not the best of writers but you get my point!

Words cannot convey debt of gratitude that I and every real American knows we owe you. Thank you. We are with you. We have no way of understanding the trauma, horror, sacrifice, and pain that you endure. We know these things as concepts, but you live them daily. We admire your strength, bravery, kindness and compassion. We owe you a debt that can simply never be repaid. We pray for you and are with you every day and night. God bless all of you and your families. Stay strong.

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