In order to make the surrounding world a little better place to live in one has to do something good for people around. It is sometimes that small things done bring great consequences. Those were my thoughts when I chose my Civic Project at the Ramstein AB Post Office. I volunteered there for twenty hours during the holiday season (15 Dec 07 – 24 Dec 07) helping the post office personnel with delivering Christmas cards and packages to the military personnel and their families, civilian DoD Workers and contractors. This experience taught me about the importance of small things for global effects, helped to see the significance of family ties for those people who for some reasons have to live abroad, and gave me the feeling of doing the right thing.
Ramstein Air Base is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community. It is the headquarters of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and is also an installation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)( Ramstein Air Base website). Due to increased deployments to contingency locations of personnel that worked in the Post Office, manning was very low, while the workload of the Post Office increases immensely because of New Year and Christmas holidays.
Christmas is the time of the year that most people like to spend with their families and loved ones. Unfortunately some of the personnel of Ramstein Air Base were apart from their families in that period, and the post office was their only chance to congratulate their loved ones, and send them presents. I foresee that it may not seem a significant thing for someone, but the study conducted by Rosen et all (1989) proved that the influences of family on the military personnel morale has always been great.
And it is especially important for people who for some reasons have to live abroad, like Ramstein Air Base personnel do. They sometimes feel forgotten and neglected by their loved ones, and those are Christmas cards and presents that help them to understand there are people who love them, miss them, and wait for their comeback there at home.
Most people love Christmas, as it is the time of year when dreams are supposed to come true, and miracles are expected to happen. That senses of fairy tale happening gives Christmas a very specific, unforgettable taste. I have always felt it, but during my work on the post office this sense became much stronger. Most of those, who came to send or receive something, were filled with that holiday spirit, and shared it with all the surrounding world and people. They came to the post office to send a portion of this cheer to their families, and friends, and they shared it with me altogether.
One more thing that was significant for me was that I felt my job helped to boost the morale of Ramstein Air Base personnel. People felt that their needs in human interactions with their families and loved ones were considered and satisfied, and it provide them the feeling of being protected and taken care of. A simple opportunity to congratulate families and friends on Christmas helped military personnel to recall the ideals and ideas they were fighting for. Clausewitz in his famous book On War wrote: “the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely-honed blade”. And it is mostly very simple to provide personnel with these things.
It is very pleassant for me to understand that by spending these twenty hours in the post office, I actually helped thousands of people, which included air base personnel, their relatives and friends. Working there was one of that little things that may lead to the great consequences. It may sound funny, or weird, but there was a moment on the post office, when I suddenly felt I had never done anything as significant before. People came and went, sending and receiving love and affection, and I felt I was the part of that great machine that helped them to be together despite of distance, and it made me feel very protected,and, in the same time useful, like I was really doing something valuable.
I suppose that working on the Ramstein AB Post Office was a very useful thing for me to do, as it helped me to find out about the significance of little doings. I saw that even a little amount of time and efforts can actually change something, like it happened there, when by spending twenty hours in the air base post office I managed to help thousands of military personnel, their families and friends, who were apart for Christmas, a holiday, which is traditionally considered to be the family one.
1. Ramstein Air Base Website, 2008
2. Clausewitz, C. (1968) On War. Penguin Books
3. Rosen, L. Moghadam, L. Vaitkus, M. (1989). The Military Family’s Influence on Soldiers’ Personal Morale: A Path Analytic Model. Military Psychology. 1:4, 201-213.