5 Ways to Help Soldier Friends Reduce Stress

Intense training, rapid changes, and the hazardsof combat generate high levels of stress. Leavingfamilies and jobs behind compounds the problem.Combat stress is so great that, typically, onesoldier is lost to stress for every one lost toenemy gunfire. Home front support is critical inhelping soldiers overcome these stressors.

Employers, supervisors, co-workers and friends canall help by relieving concerns about what's goingon at home. Here are five easy ways to helpreduce the stress and win the battle.

Cards and Letters

Send handwritten cards and letters on a regularschedule. There's something very reassuring abouthearing your name announced at mail call andwalking away with a card or letter that you canread and re-read -- far better than e-mail.

Schedule letter writing, and write often. Don'texpect prompt replies because the fast pace ofcombat duty and daily fatigue prevent such aluxury.

Write about the weather. Tell about businessroutines and extraordinary achievements. Give thetown gossip. Keep them up to date on theirfavorite television show. Talk about customersand suppliers. Pass along break room jokes andnews about employees they know.

Your GI friends are hungry for a touch from home -even if it is in an envelope. Frequent letterscan reduce stress significantly.

Phone calls

With today's technology you can talk with soldiersat war. You can get a pin number for inexpensiveinternational calling cards on web sites such aswww.noblecom.com. Call your soldier friends inAfghanistan or Iraq for about thirty cents aminute. Calls to some countries cost as little asa penny a minute.

Not every soldier has access to a phone. Ask ifthey can get to a land line or cell phone, and askabout the time difference. They'll tell you thebest time to call.

No matter how dangerous the work, a voice of agood friend alleviates stress. Your calls will beremembered for years.

Gifts and packages

The gifts you send aren't as important as thefrequency. Your soldiers will tell you what theyneed, but they might not tell you what they want.

Send packages often. Infantry soldiers cannotcarry a lot of stuff at any given time. Theyalready have 40-60 pounds of weapons andammunition. But send enough goodies for them toshare with buddies on the front line. You might bethe only friend who sends enough for them to sharewith GIs who never receive anything from the homefront.

Send favorite foods, snacks, and homemade goodies.Send a product that's new on the market. Find outwhether they need AA batteries.

When I was an infantry company commander inVietnam, my wife once sent a whole case of popcornthat could be popped over a campfire. After monthsof jungle patrols and tasty C-rations, the popcornwas a touch of home for everyone in the company.Who would have guessed that popcorn could relievestress?


Take pictures of all company activities, customerfunctions, and industry happenings. All of thesethings are important when you're away from home.

Send pictures of co-workers and company events.Include shots of funny things. Instead ofthrowing away those goofy faces, put them in anenvelope. These are the people your soldiers know-- and miss!

If they can't get disposable cameras from the postexchange, send a couple of the one-use camerasthat cost under ten bucks. Trading pictures helpsyou understand their work and the way they live,and the snapshots help reduce stress for thetroops.

News clippings

Stuff newspaper clippings into those envelopes.

GIs want to know what's going on in sports,politics, Hollywood, and society. They know thatthe world continues to turn while their time isfrozen in combat. News clippings help themremember what it's like in civilized life.

Send industry news and editorials. News about thewar won't damage morale. Seeing war news in printhelps soldiers understand how accurate or howmisguided their efforts are represented. Writeyour own notes right on the article. Tell themwhat you think about the news. Ask for theirthoughts.

Gather news about their other friends. Knowingthat others continue with daily routines will beencouraging to those doing the hard work. Thereality of things helps reduce the stress of notbeing in touch.

There you have it - five easy ways to stay intouch 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 yourworkplace, send e-mail to get a free article aboutcontrolling the top ten workplace stressors -MailTo:toptenstressors@couragebuilders.com.

Author's Bio: 

Dale Collie (MailTo:collie@couragebuilders.com)speaker, author, and former US Army Ranger,CEO,and professor at West Point. Selected by"Fast Company" as one of America's Fast 50innovative leaders. Author of "FrontlineLeadership: From War Room to Boardroom," and"Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress into Success theUS Army Way." (McGraw-Hil)http://www.couragebuilders.com

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