Day of the Deployed Special Part 1: Deployed Service Member PFC Houston
October 26, 2021
October 26 is National Day of the Deployed, a nationally recognized holiday started by Soldiers’ Angels, and this year we have a story that we are really excited to share with you about a deployed service member who is supported by one of our Angels.
In this latest episode of our video series, “A Tribute to our Heroes,” we talk with deployed service member PFC Houston about his experience with Soldiers’ Angels and the impact having support during his first deployment has made.
Watch the video to the end for a surprise appearance by his Angel, Jody!
Video Interview with PFC Houston
Q. Tell me about being in the military: Why did you join? What branch are you? What deployment is this for you?
PFC Houston: I’m in the Army, I’m active duty. The reason I chose the military was I was looking at going down a very different road. I thought I was really sick, and I thought that I needed to go down disability route or I was looking at I could say, “no I’m not disabled,” at 27-years-old or 28-years-old, or whatever it was, and go down this military road and make something of myself. Not only that, but I was at a point in life where I needed a change, I needed something different. Prior to joining the service, I was a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for eight years and I kind of wanted something different. I knew that the military and its values fit everything who I was and who I wanted to be. I wanted to also be something bigger than myself and part of a family and something way bigger. I met with a recruiter and went down the steps of getting in the service and here I am. I wanted to do something and to be something with myself instead of somebody who I could have been. And I’m super happy that I chose this road and went down this route because it has been positive after positive after positive. I’m super blessed to be where I’m at today.
Q. So, this really was just a major fork in the road for you?
PFC Houston: It was, yeah. This is my first deployment, so, you know we talk about this. And it’s crazy; I want to talk about this for a second. Us as service members, we talk about deployment, and we talk about doing our job when we’re state-side and when we’re over there where we’re stationed and doing the stuff over there. But then when it actually is time for you to get called to be on a deployment and to be over here, it’s very different. It’s talk yes, and then actually being in it, is way different. So, there was a lot of struggle I was going with to try and handle those. I’m going through some family things back home that I’m having to deal with, some personal things. And then being pulled away from those and have to come here and still deal with those while being in a different time zone and things like that and to try to work it out while not being there, it’s not easy to do. There’s a lot of different things. I like to do the job I do, but then being over here where I’m at, it’s way different. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I go to church every Sunday and I started volunteering at the church here that they put on and He is helping me and guiding my path to be where I’m at. With Him and with the Angel that I have, it’s been very blessful. I’m very blessed to be here in all aspects of being in the service.
Q. How did you first hear about Soldiers’ Angels and what made you decide to sign up for support?
PFC Houston: We came here in April, and I think I was a week into my deployment and a battle buddy had talked about that she had just signed up for Soldiers’ Angels and was telling me about it. I was like, “what is that?” and she said, “Well, they write you letters, they can send you care packages that you need from home.” She was telling me all the positives of it. Then I got on the website and I signed up for it. I think it was very instantaneous that I got picked up by my Angel. I was a week into it and that’s why I signed up, because I was told about it. At that time that I signed up, I said this is my first deployment so I’m trying to learn the ropes of being in a totally different country and noticing that I don’t have this and this would be useful, and maybe talking to somebody all the time writing letters would be useful. So, this was just a lot of different things going through my head at the time when I was like, “I’m just going to sign up and see what happens.” And that’s what I did.
Q. After you signed up, what was your most memorable care package?
PFC Houston: So, I want to talk about a couple of things about this. I got a letter, actually, first I got an email. I was contacted by the Angel and she told me her name and she just said, “Hey, I just adopted you today.” And just the positivity that she had in that email. Yeah, it’s words, but I could feel the energy and I could feel the love and I could feel the support that she had as a volunteer and as an Angel with you guys and it really carried over to me and it made me feel positive, it made me feel loved, and made me feel cared just by a simple email. Honestly, like, she doesn’t even know me yet and she’s asking about how she can help me and things that I need. That is just super cool how it’s like, we’re going to skip about 10 different steps and we’re going to get to “this is me and how can I help you,” instead of a friend, where it would be like, you know, along the way you work up to that. But it’s like, bam, first email let’s get to the point here – let me start getting you something that that can help you or whatever so that was very cool to receive that email.
Then it was a letter that came after that, it was even cool that she took time to put this letter together. And then this care package comes and one of the things I asked for in there, because it’s hot over where I’m at, a cup that keeps your drinks cold – like one of those hydro flasks or Yeti cup. I said a big one would be perfect, and she went and she found one that I use, you know it’s really cool because it keeps it cold for like 60 hours, so it’s perfect for the amount of water that I’m supposed to drink in a day. I fill it three times and I’ve gotten my water in for the day. Not to mention it’s cold water; I love cold water so that was really cool to see. Another thing that was cool in the package that really made me giggle, which was really cool, was this Star Wars toothbrush that’s awesome. I’m not [a big Star Wars fan], but it has Yoda on it and I like Yoda. So when I saw that, I was like, OK she a fun one, this is really cool. You know she’s gonna take the time to put in something funny.
Also, things that I didn’t think about, like stamps to send letters home to my family, she put stamps in there and she had envelopes in there. I didn’t think about those things; I just was thinking of other stuff, like hygiene stuff and whatever, I didn’t think about, “Oh yeah, I want to send letters home, how am I going to do that?” I didn’t think about that, so for her to take the list I gave her of things that would be really great to have and then she [added] what would be also good. To add that in was really cool, too.
Q. What else can you tell me about your Angel or your experience with her? Is there anything else you want to add about her?
PFC Houston: Oh yes, so you know there’s been a couple of times where it’s just, you know, I needed a little extra support from somebody in things that I really don’t want to burden my family with because they’re dealing with a lot of stuff. So, there’s a couple of different things when you go on a deployment, how it like affects you, so you being deployed – me as a soldier being deployed – it’s almost like you’re going through the stages of grief in a sense. There’s like deployment stages, so we go through those, but our family also goes to those, as well. So, we as soldiers are like, we have to, you know, try to deal with our own things and they’re [families] are dealing with stuff and then we try to help them over there. So, for me, if we can keep them positive about how we’re doing, then they’re going to be positive. And then to have an Angel or somebody that you can talk to. [I could write an] email for the next two hours explaining to [my Angel] what’s going on, but I asked if there’s a way that I could just, you know, call or FaceTime or something like that to be easier communication for me, rather than trying to sit here for two hours to you know send an email and it may or may not make sense to you. So, the thing that I would say that this particular Angel went above and beyond is, she was able to allow me to give her a call a couple of times that I needed that extra support and I feel like that was awesome to be able to actually just talk to her. I’m old fashioned, I like to hear people’s voices – if I call in and there is an automated system, it’s like, “can I talk to a person?” because I like talking, I like human interaction. So that was really cool for me to be able to communicate with her over the phone versus email or letters.
Q. You said you also got something from Angel Bakers?
PFC Houston: Yes, I did get it. When I signed up for the program, there’s several different programs within the program and I didn’t realize that I signed up for this particular one. So not only did I sign up for the Deployed Soldiers program, but I signed up for the letter writing team and then also the Angel Baker team. So, I got a package and I opened it up and it was baked goods in it. There was cookies, there was brownies, and lemon bars in it. I thought it was funny that the particular baker added in some socks along with it. I thought that kind of cute, so, yes, that was pretty cool to get that stuff, too. I have gotten extra letters, I’ve gotten some goodies and extra care packages from my Angels. It’s been a great experience.
Q. Do you feel like you would recommend Soldiers’ Angels to your other battle buddies and deployed service members?
PFC Houston: I definitely would, I definitely would. Actually, speaking of that, like I said I’m getting involved with the church and my chapel here. I’ve actually asked them for me to talk about this program on Sunday service when we do Sunday service. So yes, I’m definitely going to promote Soldiers’ Angels to my battle buddies definitely for sure.
Q. What do you think or what would you tell Angels would be the most amazing thing to receive in a care package?
PFC Houston: That question is very hard to answer because it’s very open-ended, which means it could be about anything. I would have to say the first thing that comes to my mind is if my family members could be in a care package, I would say those would be what I would pick: my family to be here with me. Because I can’t [have my family with me], I mean my Angel, she’s on it. She must have been doing this for quite a while. I sent her a list and she just is running with it. What I mean by that is she’s giving me more than what I could even ask for and so it’s really awesome being very well taken care of by the Angel that I have supporting me. It’s very awesome, she has a heart I can definitely tell. It’s really awesome.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
PFC Houston: One more thing is that I’ve been on your page quite often, on the actual website looking at different things and really looking at your motto and what you guys stand for. I’d really like to tie this whole thing back to that, because I feel very loved by getting letters and getting these cookies and then they added extra little things in these care packages. I don’t feel like I’m alone, I don’t feel like I’d be forgotten in the future just by the Angel that I have. So, I feel like your mission and your vision, you guys are holding up to that and so that’s really awesome. I want to end it there – your mission is perfect, your vision is perfect, because I feel in my heart that you guys do that and I’m very blessed to be on the receiving end of that. It’s really cool, the person that created Soldiers’ Angels, how they came up with that. It’s really awesome, because it really does help us. There’s not as many soldiers that are like me that like to voice their opinions or whatever, they’re more of silent partners or the silent receivers. Every one of us does appreciate getting those things and being able to have that extra support – they may not say it, but it does help us. After a long, hard day at work and we come back to the room and we can just see the box of cookies that we have or this letter from one of the Angels, it really shifts things quite a bit. It’s very awesome that you guys have a great thing going for you.
PFC Houston to Angel Jody:
PFC Houston: It’s great to have you, because there’s been a couple where I just want to be on the plane home already, I’m ready to go home and am done with it. But talking to you, you have totally changed my vision and my focus. I’m putting that more toward God it’s totally changed my focus and I appreciate that. So, I thank you so much for that, you have totally changed my life.
Angel Jody to PFC Houston:
Angel Jody: You’re very welcome, wow, thanks, you’ve made me speechless. I just do what I’m called to do and a lot of times I don’t know what to say or when to say it, but the words just kind of come out what you need to hear and as long as it’s happening then that means I’m doing something right, I guess, and giving you what you need – which is what I pray for every day.
Q. How did you [Angel Jody] get involved with Soldiers’ Angels?
Angel Jody: I’ve been involved since 2010, before that it was with other organizations since like 2003. I was never able to serve and after 9/11 I wanted to do something. So, I started with one organization and then, you know, for another one and then eventually heard about Soldiers’ Angels and I signed up with you guys and had the best time.
When my daughter was younger, I got her involved, too, where she would draw pictures for my adopted soldiers or helping make cookies for them, which the soldiers just loved. Now she still helps me a little bit, we’ve gotten involved in the veteran side and have been helping with the Mobile Food Distribution. And it’s like, what started off small has grown until I spend a lot of time doing this, writing letters, making blankets, adopting soldiers, connecting with them as much as I’m allowed to do or can do with whatever they need.
Sometimes you go to bed at night, and you think you don’t make a difference. I’m so blessed to have PFC Houston as a soldier this time around, because most of the time I don’t have soldiers that respond and that’s OK, it’s not why I do this. I want that soldier on the other end to get a card in the mail or a package and just pray that it’s filled with something that they need at that moment. To know that I’m making a difference in [PFC Houston’s] life and with his experience over there, it just rejuvenates me, it just fills me up.
A friend of mine, five years ago, gave all his friends a challenge. He had he lost his son on deployment and he gave us all a challenge to get involved someway, somehow. And I took up that challenge and started getting even more involved, because I’m realizing even though we may not hear from [the soldiers], we do make a difference. These last few months have just been a blessing and I just want to say thank you to [Soldiers’ Angels] for going above and beyond. Some days can be hard, it takes a team to make things run smoothly and you guys do it. It’s just absolutely amazing.