It was Christmas, 1968. Well, maybe not Christmas Day. Probably not even Christmas Eve. But it was right there close to the holiday.
The Vietnam war was still raging and my older brother was shipping in-and-out of Vietnam waters as a Navy seaman. We hadn’t seen him in three years. Our only lifeline with him was the telephone. One of those old, bulky, heavy black ones with the rotary dial.
On this holiday season night my mom and I sat and watched that phone. We were due one of the calls we got every three or four months from him. We knew he was back in port at Okinawa. It was the night he said he would call in his last letter. And we waited. And waited.
Finally, late into the evening, the phone jingled. It was him. Four or five minutes later it was over. We had tried to jam all of the catching up and holiday cheer into just a very few minutes. It would be another two or three months before we talked again.
Mom and I rehashed that conversation again and again. She held on to every word.
I remember asking her why we didn’t talk with my brother more often. It was, it seems, very, very expensive to take a collect call from Okinawa in 1968. We were poor and a $40 or $50 phone call more than two or three times a year was out of the question.
It was a situation that left my Mom in tears often, not knowing what was going on with her middle son a world away, unable to hear his voice, to know he was OK.
Fast forward 45 years or so. The technology has changed. Our phones fit in our pockets and don’t weigh five pounds. We can instantly connect via the web to anyone around the world.
But the emotions remain the same. The sound of a voice from a loved one brings comfort and reassurance that the web can’t.
Just like on that winter night in 1968, telephones are the lifelines to the sons and daughters and mothers and fathers that are serving our country a world away. But Cell Phones For Soldiers has made it all so much easier. Since 2004, their Minutes That Matter program has been on a mission to support troops and help them call home at no charge.
Because of so many generous supporters donating money and gently used cellphones for recycling, that mission has been successful with 216 million minutes of free talk time for servicemen and women over the past 11 years. Who could have dreamed that it could be so easy to donate to support veterans and active-duty military members?
Over this holiday season imagine how difficult it would be to be away from your child, your husband or your wife; think about how important a phone call would be to them. Then reach out to Cell Phones For Soldiers and make an online military monetary donation or let them recycle your unwanted cellphone. It’ll make you feel better. More importantly it will provide a lifeline for our troops and veterans.
I know it would have made my mom, my brother and I feel like we’d received a gift of a lifetime in 1968.
Make a difference in the lives of military members now at: https://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/get-involved/donate-funds/.
(This blog is courtesy of Mike Smith, veteran journalist and public relations professional. He lives in Bristol, TN, with his wife Aleeta.)