Such a little thing: Such a big deal

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieA few weeks back, I got an e-mail from my son.

An engineer and a pilot, he’s typically a pretty buttoned up young man. But that note, that day, you could tell he was really happy. Something had happened that most of us wouldn’t ever realize could be a day “maker”, or breaker.

That day, he got to pet a dog.

He doesn’t have his own dog. Flying C-17s, his schedule is eratic.  Having a dog isn’t practical when he’s circumnavigating the globe.  His  very good friend lets him borrow his dog while he hunts and hikes through the mountains in Alaska.  He loves this dog.  One of his few Facebook “posts” while he’s been gone, talked about how much he misses Skoda – a big, black lab, well deserving of the title “man’s best friend.”

That’s not how dogs are viewed in Afghanistan. Afghani people don’t treat dogs as pets: dogs are for fighting, for protection. In an Islamic society, dogs are unclean. Touching them requires immediate hand washing – a complex problem in a country with little access to water and no infrastructure that supplies  water.   Compounding the issue, the dogs that roam around Afghanistan have the highest rabies rating in the world.  Our service men and women are instructed to steer clear of these dogs.

The military has our own working dogs: highly trained, drug sniffing animals, they are also, generally “off limits” from the rest of the military population.  They’re called Military Working Dogs (MWD) and they actually hold a rank – one strip higher than their handlers to ensure the handlers are always treating the dogs with respect.

One day, one of these MWD was in the Forward Operating Base my son calls home, walking around with his handler but not in “working” mode. My son stopped and talked with the handler, and after chatting for a while the handler gave him the “ok” to pet the dog.

Such a small thing, petting a dog – – but it made me realize it was a rare opportunity for him to make physical contact with a living being.  To feel and touch life.

Our servicemen and women go without so much while they’re deployed.  So many things are different.  We here at home have no understanding of, no appreciation for the strangeness.

The deployed don’t get to go get a massage at the end of a stressful day.

They don’t get that welcoming hug when they come back to their hut.

No one says “good night” or “sweet dreams” to them, before they drift off to sleep, brushing the hair off their face.

They’re alone. Lonely. A million miles from home.

So today, do what you can to reach out to one of them. No your reach won’t result in physically touching them, but it can result in something they can touch:  mail a funny card, write a letter, box up some cookies or coffee, order a birthday cake. Chances are someone you know knows someone who’s deployed. If you’re lucky enough for this not to be a true statement about you, check out “modern day operation Dear Abby“, and they can hook you up with a soldier to adopt.

It’s a little thing most of us can do, that will be a big deal when it arrives. You’ll feel blessed in the giving.  Thank you.blue-star-mom-service-flag


5 Responses to “Such a little thing: Such a big deal”

  1. 1 Rod
    July 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    “Buttoned up” is one way of saying it.

    Thought I was having a tough week because I couldn’t get things sorted out over here, but I guess this puts things into a better perspective.

    • 2 applepiemom
      July 17, 2009 at 8:42 am

      That really is a great comment. I was upset because, while trying to rid the garden of bunnies, the spray I used killed my impatiens. Doesn’t quite stack up as a bona fide crisis, does it. . .

  2. 3 kepster
    July 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Long-time reader, first-time writer. Thanks for all these great posts- they really put things in perspective. We’re so lucky we get to live in America and have such wonderful, selfless people protecting us!

    • 4 applepiemom
      July 17, 2009 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks much, Kelly – glad to hear it helps when reading. I know it helps me to write, so I keep writing.

  3. 5 Brent
    July 18, 2009 at 10:05 am


    Of course I had to read this today.

    Today an E-4 got in trouble for secretly keeping a dog. I wouldn’t have known about it, except my hooch is right next to the aid station, where he was directed to bring the dog to be euthanized. (Pets of any kind are prohibited because of the rabies threat) I happened to be walking by as he, the medics, and his buddies who had come to be with their brother stood in a circle around the dog as it struggled to stay alive.

    I stayed for a few moments to offer my condolences and just look at a dog up close and in person – a rare opportunity. I’ve seen many things here that are far, far worse in comparison, but I couldn’t stand to stay there for very long. I didn’t want to distract that man from his last moments with his dog, and to be honest I didn’t want to watch the end of the scene.

    You’re right. A dog is a small thing. It is just an animal. But in many ways it is a big deal. Dogs are companions and friends, and their loss is especially tough when they provide a semblance of normalcy that is otherwise pretty hard to come by, if not impossible.


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