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Officer Suggests Ways To Support The Troops

Since Capt. Nate Rawlings began taking questions from Iraq two months ago, he has received numerous queries about how people can effectively show their support for the troops. This week, he answers this question and explains how he and his soldiers approach the topic of politics.

Question One: How can I show support for the troops?

Dear Capt. Rawlings,

In your estimation, what is the best way for those of us back home to show support for military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan? I feel very strongly about doing what I can to provide such support, and yet I was — and am — opposed to the decision to send troops into Iraq.

Sincerely,

-- Martha Antolik, Vandalia, Ohio

Dear Ms. Antolik,

Thank you very much for your question. While many of us serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have wonderful family and friends who support us through letters, care packages and prayers, there are many soldiers on both fronts who are decidedly alone. I have seen many soldiers who have never received a letter, care package or much support from home. While care packages are amazing, there is no substitute for a letter; something as simple as "someone cares about you and is thankful for what you are doing." One of the best ways that people at home can reach out to the soldiers who have little family support is through organizations such as Any Soldier, which sends care packages to soldiers who do not receive them from anyone else. This is an outstanding organization worthy of great support.

Another aspect of service that can be difficult for soldiers is returning home. Often there are issues and problems that arise in soldiers' lives that are not well-publicized and are difficult to repair. Operation Homefront is another wonderful organization that provides assistance to soldiers as they make the transition from combat zone to normal life, assisting veterans with financial difficulties, medical problems and a variety of other challenges.

The third area where I have seen soldiers in need of support is in veterans hospitals across the country. There are thousands of veterans of the current operations and of other wars who do not have families or many visitors. Something as simple as stopping by the local VA hospital, asking if there is a veteran who hasn't received any visitors and visiting with him or her can make someone's month. You can locate nearby veterans hospitals through this database.

Question Two: What do you think about the election?

Dear Capt. Rawlings,

I am very interested in the elections and how they will affect the war in Iraq. I will admit that the prospect of a draft is not appealing to me. I wonder what you think of the proposed plans of Obama to withdraw and McCain's "come home with honor and victory." Do you think a withdrawal would only leave problems for later? Do you think that this war has a point at which we can call ourselves victors?

With thanks,

--Chase Hopkins, Edwardsville, Ill.

Dear Mr. Chase,

Thank you very much for your question. While it might be easier if we followed the old adage of the family holiday dinner table — "never discuss anything related to politics or money" — my soldiers and I regularly engage in political discussions. Indeed, we have many opposing philosophies and views.

My soldiers stay informed about politics through the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which reprints Associated Press articles on political and national matters. The national election holds immediate ramifications to our operations. While both candidates appear to be set in their viewpoints, I will be interested to see if their philosophies change based on potential improvements on the ground. While many of my soldiers have strong views on their choice of candidates, like millions of Americans, I have yet to make up my mind.

I do not believe that a draft will be part of the equation anytime soon. Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York's 15th Congressional District, has argued for a reinstatement of the draft. Such a move has been unpopular among the public and lawmakers; in 2003, his House resolution, which included legislation drafting men and women into military service, was defeated 402-2. I don't think public opinion has changed much since then. [An August 2007 Gallup Poll showed that 80 percent of Americans oppose reinstating the draft.]

You can find more of Capt. Rawlings' responses to listener questions here.

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