Connecting during the holidays

by MSgt. Erik V. Larson
Stripes Okinawa

“Connections with other people affect not only the quality of our lives but also our survival.” - Dean Ornish

In WWII as in these days, military leadership recognized that contact with loved ones while on deployment boosts morale. This is especially true during the holidays. A problem they ran into was that cargo space was critical to transport war supplies and mail takes up lots of space and weight. The solution was Victory mail or V-Mail for short.

V-Mail consisted of only one page of lightweight paper. The extra weight of multiple letters was reduced by transferring to microfilm. The film was then sent to a central processing location in the States and transferred back into paper form before being delivered. Another weight saving feature of V-Mail was the elimination of the need for an envelope because the page folded into one. Transferring to microfilm saved up to 98% on cargo space and if sent in original form took up 42% less space and weighed 45% less than regular mail. *1

V-Mail was also marked for preferential sorting and transport. Due to these innovations, V-Mail only took twelve days or less to be delivered. This was a remarkable correspondence interval for those days. What is even more remarkable is that these days technology has allowed us to connect from deployed locations to our loved ones with the tips of our fingers instantaneously. We have to be grateful for today’s technology and take advantage of the time we get to communicate by making it open and productive.

There are many priorities and distractions in our life, so we need to be intentional about setting a schedule so that we can give our loved ones our undivided attention. We also need to communicate effectively. Because V-Mail was limited to only one page people needed to be specific about what words to use so that their message could be communicated effectively. This is not any different for us today.

The most effective form of communication is straightforward, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Some people believe if their loved one was sensitive, they would understand without having to be specific. Unfortunately for them, no one will ever be sensitive enough to be able to read minds. Therefore, you need to specific in your conversation and do not assume the other person understands you perfectly.

Another way to be productive in communication is to listen more than you talk. You can get the other person to do most of the talking if you resist the urge to interrupt and use using open-ended questions during conversation. If you ask, “How was your day?” the answer could be a short, “good.” Instead, if you ask the open-ended question, “What did you do today?” you will get a more lengthy response.

To nurture our relationships while apart I suggest choosing a relationship-strengthening book and reading it together. Decide how much you are going to read per week and then set aside a special time to talk only about what you have read and how it can enhance your relationship. I highly recommend The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Which is also available in a military edition.

Holidays are coming up, take time to pause even just for few minutes and reflect on things we are thankful for and be ready to express those to our love ones whether you communicate in person or over long distance. Communication it is the key to making human connections that lead to building strong relationships, which is what matters most in this life.

1. Smithsonian National Postal Museum, V-Mail Letter Sheets, https://postalmuseum.si.edu/collections/object-spotlight/v-mail-letter-sheets.html                                                                           

Recommended Reading: The Five Love Languages: Military Edition– Gary Chapman

 

If you are interested in learning more about starting an intentional journey of personal development, check out my book Your Journey of Personal Development: Be inspired to reach for your highest potential, which is available on Amazon.com. The book contains easy to use methods and strategies to improve all areas of your life. Included is a chapter about creating a deliberate and specific plan to focus your life’s purpose statement into great achievements in your life.

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