I'd never met Lt. Col. Lisa Schieferstein, yet I was intrigued by her story. I knew Lisa was half a world away, doing a tough job in a gritty, remote location. As the garrison commander of the 389th "Renegades" division in Iraq, she was stationed at a desert outpost, with 90 soldiers under her command. The heat was appalling, the conditions were rugged, and danger was ever present.
Even though my life is incredibly cushy by comparison (a nice psychology practice in Delaware, a second career as a mystery novelist), when I saw a photo of Lisa—in full body armor—visiting a one-room Iraqi schoolhouse to bring books to the children, I knew right away we had something in common: a love of books. We began to e-mail each other, and I got a glimpse of her day-to-day life.
When I learned that the 389th was a sustainment division, offering food and snacks to American convoys passing through, I decided to send boxes of books and homemade goodies every two weeks. Author Carolyn Hart told me that when she packed up the boxes for the soldiers, she "pictured young Americans—and some not so young—far from home, beset by horrendous heat and dirt, lonely, tired, and always in danger."
Jill Cesa-Teneyck, Lisa's best friend, insisted on sending a dozen copies of my own mystery, Dead Air, to the Renegades. To date, we've sent more than 200 pounds of home-baked sweets and books to Iraq. What does the military think about the project?
Kim Adams, SOS Military Liaison and an Air Force spouse in Honolulu, said, "As a veteran of the first Gulf War, I know firsthand what difference mail makes to deployed personnel.... But that war was short-term, and our troops came home. Today, our military personnel are facing longer and repeated deployments. I wish everyone reading this piece could adopt a soldier and send books, candy, snacks, and, sure, homemade cookies or brownies. It's easy to do and it really means the world to our brave men and women in the military forces."
As Janet Evanovich told me, "If Stephanie Plum could meet the Renegades, she'd give them a high-five and say, 'Well done!'"
Mary Kennedy is a licensed clinical psychologist at FOCUS BEHAVIORAL HEALTH in Wilmington, Delaware and the author of the Talk Radio Mysteries. Her current release is STAY TUNED FOR MURDER.
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