I stepped through the door, the warmth of the MWR a welcome relief to the freezing temperatures outside. The large tent held comfortable chairs facing a large screen TV in the middle with computer stations lining one wall. To the right sat two pool tables and two ping-pong ball tables. A section near the back held phones in small wooden cubicles. A large connecting tent held gym equipment, weight benches, free weights, and treadmills.
I waved to one of the workers, who had become a familiar face in the last three months since I’d been back in this country. Moving toward the side where the makeshift library was located, I noticed another worker unpacking a large box filled with paperbacks. For a reader like myself, it was a huge gift. Drawn to the table, I peeked in the box as the MWR worker was taking the books out. They had been packed well and each book, while used, appeared to be in good condition. Even the smell of the printed paper was a welcome treat, reminding me of the old library in my hometown when I was a child.
“Hey, Sergeant Molina,” he greeted. “I figured you’d be in here first to grab some of these.”
Grinning, I replied, “Just like a late Christmas present.” Scanning the titles as he placed them on the table, I ran my fingers over the spines of some of the books, loving the feel of the paper. No e-reader for me…I wanted to hold the printed books in my hands as I read. Snagging a few of the longer mysteries, I turned toward the MWR worker. “Mind if I go ahead and take these?”
“Nah, go ahead. Just write the titles down on one of the cards on my desk and you can take them now.”
Jotting the information down as instructed, I waved as I pulled the collar up on my jacket before heading back to my tent. I had the rest of my day off to enjoy some new stories. As I entered my tent again, I nodded at the few squad members lounging inside. The bitter cold had chased most of us indoors, the winter Afghanistan wind making everyone hustle to get from building to building.
“Got more books?” Todd called out, glancing up from the card game he and three others were playing.
“They just got a new box in,” I replied, gaining their attention.
“Did you get the mysteries?” Chuck asked.
“Yeah. I’ll send them your way as soon as I finish.”
Dropping the books on my bed, I leaned back against my pillow, supported by the headboard. With my legs stretched out in front of me, I took a look at the reading bounty. I picked up each book, flipping it over to read the back cover. One, in particular, caught my attention and I pushed the others to the side as I settled in to read.
As soon as I opened the book, a folded piece of paper fell out. Knowing the books were used, I wasn’t surprised to find something placed inside. I’d found business cards, bookmarks, even recipes. I almost crumpled it up, but the handwriting on the paper lifted my curiosity and I unfolded it to discover what someone had left in their book.
To the soldier that receives this book,
I hope you enjoy the books I packed to send to you. I read an article in a newspaper that told about how soldiers needed more books, so I decided to help. I work in a library and part of my job is to go through the donated books. We receive lots of books and I choose the ones appropriate for us and some are unfortunately too damaged to save. But many we simply don’t have room for and those are the ones that we can’t keep. I asked if I could box them up and send them to a place where soldiers would appreciate them. So, that became my project.
Anyway, if you have the chance to send me an email to just let me know you got the books and if you liked them, I would appreciate it. I’m supposed to be able to provide evidence of the project’s effectiveness and this is the only way I can think of. I’ll list my email at the bottom of this letter.
I decided to place this in one of the mysteries because I love to read mysteries also.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy the books.
I held the paper in my hand, re-reading the note several times. Molly. Grinning, I imagined a blue-haired, little old lady sitting in a library sorting books and boxing them up for us. The image of the librarian at my high school crossed my mind. She used to peer at us over her glasses as we would try to flirt with girls during study hall. I refolded the piece of paper and laid it to my side. I’ll send a note when I return the book to the MWR…it’ll probably make her day. Settling back, I opened the book, soon transported to another time and place as I spent the day immersed in the story.
I took one of my books with me the next day as I reported for duty. Now serving as a MEDEVAC medic, my twenty-four-hour shifts could be boring if no calls came in or they could fly by in a rush as call after call mobilized us into action.
I’d started a second book but had to admit the one Molly recommended was better. Thinking of the woman who had carefully packed the books, I smiled. Once off shift, I reminded myself to send her a thank you note.
With the birds fully stocked and ready for this next call, I settled down on the faux-leather sofa in the workroom. I opened the book but barely got a page read when the screech of the radio blasted through the room.
“MEDEVAC! MEDEVAC! MEDEVAC!”
Tossing my book down behind me, my duty began again. The mystery novel would have to wait.