God's Politics

God's Politics

Rose Marie Berger: Write to a Soldier?

I’ve gotten a couple of requests from people wanting to know how to contact soldiers. Manhattanville College in New York has a really good My Soldier Program that matches civilians and active duty soldiers for letter exchanges and support. Manhattanville is a college with a strong social justice bent and the program was developed by Iraq veterans in conjunction with students. It puts politics aside while letting U.S. troops know that people back home care. It was co-founded by Sgt. Juan Salas, a 23-year-old Manhattanville student who served 14 months in Iraq and is now back on campus. The letters Juan received meant so much to him that he wanted to generate thousands more for troops who are still deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.


By enrolling in the My Soldier Program, you can “adopt” a soldier. Then you will receive guidelines about what kinds of things a soldier might like to receive, as well as a red “My Soldier” bracelet. More than 300,000 people have joined the My Soldier Program, volunteering to write to almost 150,000 soldiers. If you as an individual or your group are looking for a method of connecting with soldiers, I recommend Manhattanville’s My Soldier Program. Once you join, you can download a starter kit and off you go! (Additionally, if you know soldiers looking for letter exchanges with civilians, they also can sign up at the My Soldier Program.)


Additionally, though it’s difficult to write to Iraqis, there are a couple of blogs that can foster connection. Check out Raed in the Middle and Baghdad Burning. Let us know of other people-to-people connections with Iraqis.

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor of Sojourners magazine.

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D Jay

posted April 30, 2007 at 7:57 pm

As a Christian pacifist I find it extraordinary that a Sojourners associate editor condones writing to soldiers. This practice is encouraged even in elementary schools, where it normalizes the idea of war among children, and entrenches the military-industrial complex by enmeshing it with education. Writing to soldiers contributes to the militarization of society, and seems based on the notion of soldiers as innocent bystanders, victims instead of active participants. I expected to find a more thoughtful response here that reflects on these issues.

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Bob B.

posted April 30, 2007 at 9:21 pm

D Jay, I can understand your comment as an explanation of why you would not want to participate it this program because you are a pacifist. But there are many subscribers and members of Sojourners who disagree that such support for the troops is inappropriate. These folks may have decided to join the military, but they have no input as to where they are sent to serve. Under the circumstances, unless you think we should not even have a military, I don’t think it is at all inappropriate to try to help raise the spirits of the service members serving our country in a war zone, even if you think (as I do) that this operation in Iraq is wrong.

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D Jay

posted May 3, 2007 at 7:22 am

@ Bob B: You are right, I cannot see how those who want to imitate Jesus’s non-violent example can join an organization (the military) of which the primary purpose is violence. In particular, should Christians support combatants in a conflict founded on immoral premises (deceit)? Does such support not render us immoral as well? If we believe the lie, do we not become a part of it, and extend it even further? Should we support those who served at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo? Or who participate in extreme rendering? Or who subject others to daily humiliating treatment in their own country? The uncritical support of so many churches for the military ultimately justifies the military-industrial complex on which the US economy largely rests. While soldiers may have no say in where they are sent, they do have the choice not to become soldiers in the first place. We should rather encourage people not to become involved with the military, or to withdraw from such service. The military dehumanizes people so that they will obey commands that would otherwise conflict with their moral values. I speak as someone who has been in the military and who has experienced the militarization of South Africa in defense of an unjust regime. Both the military defense of white privilege and of the regime was largely supported by the churches – one of the strong parallels that exists between the USA today and South Africa then. As former South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey said: “America’s preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.” (

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