Bison Nation Writes Letters to Unit 818
NDSU Community Sends Support to Bison Troops in Afghanistan
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 12:11
A letter writing campaign through Dec. 6 is generating cards and supplies to boost the morale of North Dakota soldiers stationed in Afghanistan over the holidays.
Veterans Upward Bound, Trio and the Equity and Diversity center at NDSU initiated the campaign after learning that the 818 unit of the North Dakota Army National Guard is not currently receiving correspondence from friends or family.
The men are deployed in a year long full-combat mission to do route clearance and protect the local population.
The soldiers have nicknamed their unit “The Bison” to reflect the roots of their home state. Many are NDSU alumni from the engineering department and a few are current students.
It is important for NDSU to reach out to members of its community and let them know their sacrifice is appreciated and there are people who care about them, Jeri Vaudrin, NDSU’s Veterans Upward Bound project coordinator, said.
“How do you mentally prepare yourself to be in a war zone and keeping yourself alive, and keeping your buddies alive, and trying to help the citizenry when you are not getting any reaffirmation that you have value while you are over there?” Vaudrin said.
Vaudrin contacted Aida Martinez-Freeman, the assistant director of Trio, to plan how NDSU could support the soldiers.
Tables were set up in the Memorial Union and mailboxes were passed around the residence halls to collect letters and cards from the NDSU community. The students have been signing them “Bison Nation.”
“We’ve been almost in tears looking at the details, the time and the words,” Martinez-Freeman said. “It’s been absolutely amazing.”
The goal is to collect as much as possible from the campus community. Cards, letters and donated items will be accepted at Ceres 335 until Dec. 6. The coordinators hope this batch will be the first of many.
The holidays are the hardest time to be deployed, Calie Craddock, a veteran and junior majoring in political science, said. She has been deployed twice and said if a soldier does not have support from family or friends, these family-oriented holidays are even lonelier.
“[NDSU] can come in and fill that void and there is never going to be that thought, ‘Well everyone else got mail, but I didn’t get anything this Christmas,’” Craddock said.
Even with Facebook and Skype, having physical reaffirmation is extremely important Craddock said. Having something to hold and keep with you makes the long days go by faster.
These letters and care packages will provide comfort when the soldiers are having down days, Vaudrin said.
“You need something to sustain you and it’s that support from back home that lets them know no matter what happens it’s okay,” Vaudrin said. “We’re going to be there.”
A community can forget to constantly acknowledge its troops in this busy fast-paced world Craddock said. This modern war is unlike the WWII generation, where a large portion of the population was oversees for only three years of active combat. It was easier then for entire nation to rally around the troops because whole communities were impacted.
Today’s war has lasted 12 years and the soldiers volunteer, they are not drafted. Craddock said the National Guard deploys many units. This means that individuals from various towns are shipping out, not large groups from a base where there is already a support system.
Support for soldiers needs to be reinvented to a local level Craddock said. Communities need to take care of their individual soldiers.
This campaign is NDSU’s chance to take care of its soldiers, the coordinators said.
“What is our role as NDSU, Bison Nation, to show love for other Bison?” Martinez-Freeman said. “We must stop for a moment and think of another person. Be grateful for what we have and show a little care for other Bison that are out there.”
Craddock, Martinez-Freeman and Vaudrin are hoping for more donations than they can send at this time. They want to send more letters in the spring to 818 and also to two other units that will be shipping out this year.