Filed under: Cigars
While we are constantly reminded of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we often lose site of the people serving. Sure, we support the troops and lament the fact that some are separated from their families for a year or longer ... with unfortunate regularity. But, these concepts remain abstract from those who don't don the uniform every day. Many have a friend or family member serving, but the vast majority is another step removed from the sacrifice. Chuck Ley, founder of the organization Cigars for Soldiers, is bridging the gap. His effort has added a personal and genuine touch to a "support the troops" message that the mainstream media has forced into cliché too soon.
Ley, like me, was a soldier. While my service entailed comfy pencil-pushing positions in Uijongbu, South Korea and Fort Gordon, Georga, he was an infantryman – the real deal – wounded in action in Mogadishu, Somalia. It wasn't the event immortalized in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, but few realize that we fought more than once over there. Though back in civilian life for more than a decade, Ley has not forgotten his time in uniform, and many of his friends continue to serve.
From time to time, Ley would get a phone call or e-mail from overseas, a friend in some far-flung place. The tone varied from casual inquiry to begging to near-demand: send cigars. How could a cigar-smoking former soldier refuse?
Gallery: Cigars for Soldiers