Every year around this time employees at GE's Bently Nevada facility in Minden sponsor a "Support the Troops" project through the GE Volunteers organization. Employees who wish to participate are provided with boxes and fill them with a variety of items for individual Nevada soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan.
This year, one of our employees, Chuck Tuggle (a veteran himself) returned a box with a letter enclosed that was written by his 16-year-old daughter, Emily Tuggle. The letter so touched those of us who read it that we asked her permission to copy the letter and include in all 300-plus boxes. As one of our other employees (also a veteran) commented, "there really is hope for the future with young people like Emily in it."
Hi. You don't know me, and I don't know you. But it's funny, you don't have to know someone in order to wish with everything you have to ensure that they're safe. It's amazing how easy it is to forget that you're there, so far away, protecting something that you haven't given a second thought to protecting. I can't imagine it; I know I'm not strong enough to do what you do. I work through high school and cry when I get a D on a test, not even realizing there's more out there, things that are bigger than me. Like you. You're a part of the bigger picture, you do what everyone wishes they could, with half the respect you deserve. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited in school every day, with 30 seconds of silence afterwards for religious purposes, or to reflect upon yourself or your well-being. Many talk through this, teachers move on, the day continues, that 30 little seconds nothing but a flash in a day that is challenging enough to keep track of.
Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds is all that is devoted to thinking of the bigger picture. Thirty seconds that most don't even take the time to honor.
In four days it will be Veterans Day. Most don't respect that either; it's a day off from school. Three-day weekend, sleeping in, more time to relax and enjoy being a kid, enjoy life. Life, however, isn't about three-day weekends. It's not about 30 seconds. Thirty seconds is the difference between life and death, a three-day weekend is an unheard of term for those who deserve it more. I would trade anything in the world to give you a three-day weekend, to extend the clock by 30 seconds every time you needed it. I would give anything for you to be home for Thanksgiving. For Christmas. I don't know you. But I know my father. He is like you, out of the service, and still always in the service at the same time. To picture him away hurts, not just emotionally, but a physical ache. Your families miss you and love you dearly, and though I'm only a stranger, I feel the same.
Nothing in a simple letter can express the words I want to say, nothing in a box of jerky and plastic bags can heal the distance between you and the ones you love. I know that, though I can't imagine it. I won't ask for much this Christmas, gas money maybe, because I'm a female teenager with the right to drive. Not because I fought for that right, but because you did. I won't give thanks for much at Thanksgiving, because even though I'm thankful for so much, I still forget sometimes that there are bigger things than tests and friends. While the tree may lay bare and the turkey may come out drive, I will always know that there are people like you to protect those who are too weak to protect themselves. Knowing that you are where you are brings so much peace to myself, my family, everyone I know. The distance hurts, it's incredibly dangerous, and yet you go out every day to fight for people you don't know. Like me.
You don't know me. I don't know you. But I'm so thankful for you, for the sacrifice you make, for the people you leave behind for me. For my parents. For my friends.
Take care. Be safe. You are loved.
Emily Tuggle is a sophomore at Douglas High School and a member of the speech and debate team. She won the American Mathematics Contest 10 at Douglas High School last year.