[Troop appreciation]

(Nervous) letters from home

A Weekly writer goes outside his comfort zone to adopt an airman


I never intended to adopt an airman. And now I was pondering what sort of airman I wanted. Were there women airmen? Well, it turned out there were.

I remembered teaching college, over a decade ago, and while I loved the work, I had nothing in common with the students—kids leaving their teens and moving into their early 20s. And now I was going to have an adopted airman buddy, to whom I was supposed to shoot off e-mails while this person was deployed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, in an effort to keep their morale up until they got to come home.

Then this American hero and I would get together in Vegas and do ... what? My favorite activities are staying home reading and trying to teach my cats to talk. I don’t drink. I don’t gamble. What do you think a young war veteran will want to do on a Vegas getaway? My head felt light. I saw fish swim by in front of me. The fish were real. I was in front of a tank at the Silverton Casino. And the airman was real, too.

The plan was simple; the Silverton was participating in a program that allowed people to offer video holiday greetings to the troops currently deployed in service to our country. There were families of troops and many people just passing by at the Silverton who availed themselves of the opportunity. But it wasn’t busy, and a form on the desk offered “Adopt an Airman 820th Red Horse Squadron.”

I blame Los Angeles Times columnist and friend Joel Stein for my wanting to adopt an airman. Stein wrote a very controversial column about supporting the troops being a cop-out response to his opposition to the war. He did not support the troops. I disagreed, as I am opposed to the war yet support the troops totally. They are trying to do good at the command of others in an untenable situation. They are demonstrating acts of heroism and effort beyond anything I will ever be a part of. In fact, my entire opposition to the war is based on a belief that there is nothing happening in Iraq that justifies jeopardizing the lives and ripping apart the families of these fine young people. So, I taped a greeting. Others mentioned they were opposed to the war in their greetings, but I contented myself with hoping that the troops came home soon. Then in a patriotic flourish I adopted my airman.

So, I am now waiting to hear by e-mail from this young person, my adopted airman (or woman) with whom I likely have nothing in common. I am nervous, and not in an excited way. I guess my support of the troops turns out to be mostly abstract, lacking any real desire to hang out with—and thank—an actual troop.

But I am committed and won’t let Stein have the last laugh, even if that means dragging my post-40 ass out into the wee small hours with some besotted person fresh out of a combat zone. I will do what it takes to support the troops and my airman, male or female.


Richard Abowitz

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