Today’s post is by one of our MOAT Ironing Board moms. Ann Bentley and her husband Chuck have been so sweet to let me rope them into the MOAT project from the beginning. Plus they’ve been terrific friends and wonderful advisors through so many stages of life. I for one am extremely grateful to have them walking the road with us … and was especially touched by Ann sharing these excerpts from Todd’s letters. They’re such a great reminder that meals and family time mean so much more than we realize.

Thanks, Ann for sharing.

Thanks, Todd for serving

… and thanks to y’all for walking the road with me. If you have a few idle hands at home this summer, get them together with some neighbors and put together a care package for troops serving overseas. Todd shares some terrific ideas in his letters below. 


We shop for groceries. We cook meals. We do the dishes. (Or train our children to do these chores like Kay Wyma!) Day after day, decade upon decade, these tasks are repeated. The routine can become monotonous. Robotically, we rush through our days, unconscious of the fact that mealtimes create memories and influence the atmosphere of our homes. We know the potential we have to impact our families by the food we prepare and the hospitality we extend to others. But, are we intentional enough in the planning?

Letters from my son, in Ranger Training this spring, jolted me with the reminder of the incredible imprinting of hearts and minds around the dinner table. Food, conversations, devotions, games and books shared together (that’s another post) leave lasting memories. Here’s a glimpse into the heart of our soldier who went cold and hungry in service to this country he loves. Hopefully, you will understand how important food and family are to him. The comforts of home and loved ones dominated his thoughts and dreams.


Well, I’m still here and still a Ranger candidate! I love you all and miss you so much!…I dream about you guys!


Happy Valentines Day!…It’s quite hard for us to stay awake. I got 2 hours, 50 minutes of sleep last night. I am missing you all and can’t wait to spend some time together. Already we are all losing weight. Those 2 MREs taste soooo good! It consumes a lot of our thoughts. Gum is a lifesaver. Almost everyone chews it all the time. Teeth and jaws are getting a workout. Maybe that’s why we think of Rangers as square jawed men!…


…Got about 2 hours of sleep last night. Saw an awesome cave yesterday that John and Luke would love! Mama I got a dinner request that I’ll discuss with you soon! Love to you all! Miss you! Think of you when I see that big full moon we’ve had!


Wow! Another great breakfast! These blueberry pancakes are something else…I do have some requests for a care package…gum – I can only have 70 sticks. EXTRA makes a ‘Mint Chocolate Chip’, a ‘Strawberry Shortcake’, and a ‘Key Lime Pie’ that are the hot topics here in Ranger School, some good carbs – peanut butter, honey, cliff bars, fruit, tuna soft packs, and anything else awesome you can think of.

I’ve been craving my childhood foods…rice and chicken with onions and raisins, healthy biscuits, cheesy lentil casserole, scalloped potatoes, bacon and broccoli salad, spinach/feta/avocado/cherry tomatoes/dried cranberries/walnuts/balsamic vinaigrette salad, and cherry dump cake. Maybe we can make that meal together if I graduate on time. I can help you ’cause I know that’s a lot of work…


…I thought of another tasty treat that would be perfect in a Ranger School care package – NUTELLA! …Breakfast was amazing again, MRE lunch up on a ridge here in the Chattahoochee National Forest, dinner was hot field chow of chili, rice, green beans, cake, bread, juice, milk, salad and 1000 Island Dressing. We almost all got seconds on chili too! …. Military Schools sure make a fella miss family and home. I’m going to hibernate in my bed then we need to chow down on a ton of food together, wearing as much warm clothes as we want.


It is hard to describe how precious you all are to me. Last night when I received 7 care packages (more than anybody in our company) I was overwhelmed. There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs during Ranger School usually starting in Mountain Phase It is called “droning”. It’s due to the long hours, lack of sleep and limited diet. I first experienced it during the second portion of our field training. It’s like you are sleep walking…unable to focus well, blurry minded…you can usually only think about simple things. So, I would spend hours thinking about a certain meal or a dessert for instance…and FAMILY! It’s a trend. Tired soldiers think about food and family almost exclusively. I was so happy to get your letter updates with the care packages…Mama, the warm bed sounds better than you know! Can’t wait to come home…food, games, swim practice, basketball…


Well, I’m officially here! (Final phase of training.) …Dinner here was unbelievable. We weren’t rushed and the portions were huge…If all goes well, as somebody said last night, “We should be waking up in our own beds in 3 Saturdays! You are right Mama, sweeter days are to come!…So, I have to touch on food – breakfast – we had heard rumors that breakfast here was even better than mountain phase…can you believe it’s true? Real eggs, potatoes, big bratwurst size sausage, 2 pieces of toast, grits, oatmeal, famous Cinnamon French Toast – 2 pieces, a donut, bowl of cereal (Lucky Charms for me today), pear, peanut butter, 2 butters, unlimited salt/pepper, OJ, milk, chocolate milk, and 2 jellies. Yes, Yes, it was unbelievable. Real civilian quality for the most part, not much rushing us to eat too fast. We all had big smiles on our faces this morning to say the least…Sure love you all!


Dearest Family,…. I can’t wait to see you ALL: board games and piano recitals – my wild dessert ideas. John and Luke get excited – I’ve had days to ponder not much more than food haha, basketball challenges, swim practice, etc….Hopefully, next time I communicate with you will be by phone with good news…but we will have to wait 10 days to see. Take Care! With all my love!

And, it was good news! I cannot tell you how much these letters meant to us. We love this tough Ranger Medic! Our younger sons would jump up and down and scream on days we received something in the mail. We read and reread his letters. He wrote with incredible detail, often forfeiting sleep so he could communicate with us. Any news was precious to us.

Two of my sons are grown now, and two more, 10 and 13, are quickly growing up. I know all too well that time is short. We have a limited number of days to live virtuously before our children. I hope these letters are an encouragement to you and your families. May God strengthen each of us and grant us joy as we sacrificially serve those in our home and community.


And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.              Galatians 6:9-10 ESV

 “The bond between mother and nursing infant is secured by food. Language is introduced to children as they are fed by parents. Family discussions teach life long values to young people around the table.” Sue Gregg, Main Dishes, Eating Better cookbooks

“Meals can be very small indeed, very inexpensive, short times taken in the midst of a big push of work, but they should be always more than just food. Relaxation, communication and a measure of beauty and pleasure should be part of even the shortest of meal breaks. Of course you celebrate special occasions – successes of various members of the family, birthdays, good news, answered prayer, happy moments – with special attention to meal preparation and serving. But we should be just as careful to make the meal interesting and appealing when the day is grey and the news is disappointing. Children feel the difference in the home that takes this attitude. “vEdith Schaeffer, Hidden Art of Homemaking

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