What to give a soldier?
A promise for their sacrifice
By Cherie DuPlayee-Brown
Tomahawk Leader Reporter
Many people have continued to ask me if, and when, my husband, Mike, may be deployed overseas again. As of now, there is no deployment on the horizon for him. My nephew, on the other hand, will be packing his bags soon.
Three years ago, Sgt. Dan Streicher, the eldest son of my sister, Jacqui, and her husband, Tom, left for Iraq. He was 19 at the time and just a new kid to the National Guard. Dan suddenly was a young man with a very adult life before him. This was the boy I oftentimes babysat and whose diapers I changed. Where did time go? How could he possibly be ready for this?
Ready or not, Dan was in Iraq for 18 months. I religiously sent him care boxes filled with anything I could think of; I was so afraid for him, so sad for his brother, Tony, and my sister and Tom. Dan was a good kid. He’s a nice guy now. A good head on his shoulders, he makes smart decisions as far as I can tell. He’s got good friends and a nice girlfriend named Julie. He’s going to college at the University of Wisconsin-Stout for business administration. All these relationships and things will be put on hold once again, as he gears up for another tour of duty, this time to Afghanistan.
What stinks about this is Dan was toying with the idea of getting out. His contract with the military is up in April. He will still have to serve his full term of at least another year overseas. It almost seems unfair. On the other hand, Dan joining the military at a young age made me really take notice of him in a way I never had before. He was so brave, so deserving of my, this country’s, respect.
After Dan deployed the last time, I found my husband packing his bags and going as well. It was a sad time in my life.
While Mike was gone, I was willing to go anywhere with our daughters to pass the time. We explored different parks in the area, traveled whenever and wherever the mood struck us, anything to pass the time. One such trip led us to Volk Field, outside of Camp Douglas, to welcome my nephew home alongside hundreds of his comrades. Dan was in Iraq longer than Mike, but came home prior to him. I thought I’d make it through that night just happy to have one of the two come home. I was happy. When I got separated from my family in the huge crowd of people who showed up to celebrate these soldiers, I ended up being the first one of my family to actually see Dan. His chiseled face scanned the crowd, looking for his mom and dad, I expected. I reached out to him for that first hug and the gates inside me broke. I cried for the next several days, wanting to feel that same kind of hug with Mike.
In January, Dan will serve our country again. Someone once told me the normal routine of deployment rotation is the same. Makes me wonder if Mike’s group will be up soon, but I can’t focus on that unless it happens.
I got an email from my sister the other day announcing Dan’s impending leave. As a show of support for him, she asked everyone in her mailing list to give up something while he’s deployed, in honor of him giving up the life he knows in America, with all of its luxuries. That truly got me thinking … with all of our indulgences and wastefulness and the things we take for granted … this young man will once again give up the simple things we think are necessary. Soldiers are heroes in so many ways.
So I write this to you, dear reader, and extend a challenge to you. Pass it along to families and friends. See if we can be of support to a soldier with local ties; to all soldiers. Not with gifts or money, but with a promise, a vow and a determination to give up something we hold dear for the length of Dan’s deployment, any deployment, the length of this war perhaps, depending on how strong-willed you are. It doesn’t have to be mind-boggling. My sister, a self-admitted potato junky, is giving those up. Something simple she enjoys, yet she is willing to forego them while her son is fighting for the United States in a war thousands of miles away on foreign land. Until he comes home, she will go without something she once thought was so special.
You see, in the grand scale of things, potatoes are nothing, are they?
What will it be? What can you give up? Look around. Think of your daily routine. Maybe it’s a favorite food, coffee in the morning, chocolate, soda or alcohol. Maybe it’s not what you take out, but what you put in your day for the next year and a half that will be important … volunteer somewhere, pray for Dan every day, write a letter to any soldier once a week and actually send it. Whatever it is, this is what I ask of you … if you accept the challenge, please tell me. I would love nothing better to do than to be able to write Dan on behalf of Tomahawk and say we support him. And actually mean it. Email Cherie at email@example.com or c/o firstname.lastname@example.org with "Soldier Promise" in the subject line.