5 Ways to Help Soldier Friends Reduce Stress
Intense training, rapid
changes, and the hazards of combat generate high levels of stress.
Leaving families and jobs behind compounds the problem. Combat stress is so
great that, typically, one soldier is lost to stress for every one lost to enemy
gunfire. Home front support is critical in helping soldiers overcome
Employers, supervisors, co-workers and friends can all help by relieving
concerns about what's going on at home. Here are five easy ways to help reduce
the stress and win the battle.
Cards and Letters
Send handwritten cards and letters on a regular schedule. There's something
very reassuring about hearing your name announced at mail call and walking away
with a card or letter that you can
read and re-read -- far better than e-mail.
Schedule letter writing, and write often. Don't expect prompt replies
because the fast pace of combat duty and daily fatigue prevent such a
Write about the weather. Tell about business routines and
extraordinary achievements. Give the town gossip. Keep them up to date on
their favorite television show. Talk about customers and suppliers. Pass
along break room jokes and news about employees they know.
Your GI friends are hungry for a touch from home - even if it is in an envelope.
Frequent letters can reduce stress significantly.
With today's technology you can talk with soldiers at war. You can
get a pin number for inexpensive international calling cards on web sites such
as www.noblecom.com. Call your soldier friends in Afghanistan or Iraq for about thirty cents a minute. Calls to some
countries cost as little as a penny a minute.
Not every soldier has access to a phone. Ask if they can get to a land line
or cell phone, and ask about the time difference. They'll tell you the best
time to call.
No matter how dangerous the work, a voice of a good friend alleviates
stress. Your calls will be remembered for years.
Gifts and packages
The gifts you send aren't as important as the frequency. Your soldiers will
tell you what they need, but they might not tell you what they want.
Send packages often. Infantry soldiers cannot carry a lot of stuff at
any given time. They already have 40-60 pounds of weapons and ammunition. But
send enough goodies for them to share with buddies on the front line. You might
be the only friend who sends enough for them to share with GIs who never
receive anything from the home front.
Send favorite foods, snacks, and homemade goodies. Send a product that's
new on the market. Find out whether they need AA batteries.
When I was an infantry company commander in Vietnam, my wife once sent a whole case of popcorn that could
be popped over a campfire. After months of jungle patrols and tasty C-rations,
the popcorn was a touch of home for everyone in the company. Who would have
guessed that popcorn could relieve stress?
Take pictures of all company activities, customer functions, and industry
happenings. All of these things are important when you're away from home.
Send pictures of co-workers and company events. Include shots of funny
things. Instead of throwing away those goofy faces, put them in an envelope.
These are the people your soldiers know -- and miss!
If they can't get disposable cameras from the post exchange, send a couple
of the one-use cameras that cost under ten bucks. Trading pictures helps you
understand their work and the way they live,
and the snapshots help reduce stress for the troops.
Stuff newspaper clippings into those envelopes.
GIs want to know what's going on in sports, politics, Hollywood, and society. They know that the world
continues to turn while their time is frozen in combat. News clippings
help them remember what it's like in civilized life.
Send industry news and editorials. News about the war won't damage
morale. Seeing war news in print helps soldiers understand how accurate or how misguided
their efforts are represented. Write your own notes right on the
article. Tell them what you think about the news. Ask for their thoughts.
Gather news about their other friends. Knowing that others continue
with daily routines will be encouraging to those doing the hard work. The reality
of things helps reduce the stress of not being in touch.
There you have it - five easy ways to stay in touch and reduce stress for
soldier friends. You'll be a part of the war on terror.
If you also want to help control stress in your workplace, send e-mail to
get a free article about controlling the top ten workplace stressors - MailTo:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale Collie (MailTo:email@example.com)
speaker, author, and former US Army Ranger,
CEO,and professor at West Point.
"Fast Company" as one of America's Fast 50
innovative leaders. Author of "Frontline
Leadership: From War Room to Boardroom," and
"Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress into Success the
US Army Way." (McGraw-Hil)