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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 6 months ago

Retired soldier releases poems he wrote his wife while deployed

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While serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, Capt. Jeff Snyder wrote poems for his wife. Those poems have now been made into a book called “Odes from the Sandbox: A Field Kit for Letters Between Soldiers and their Beloved.”
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

When Capt. Jeff Snyder was deployed overseas, like many soldiers, he sent letters to his beloved wife. In those letters, Snyder often included odes and poems. Little did he know at the time, those poems would become a book called, “Odes from the Sandbox: A Field Kit for Letters Between Soldiers and their Beloved.”

“(The poems) really kept me grounded,” Snyder said. “They kept me … in my mind at home, because each time I wrote a poem — if I took three days to write a poem or an ode — it gave me that three days of mental contact with my wife at home.”

Snyder, 50, has worked in law enforcement for about 30 years. Following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who both served in World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2008 as a second lieutenant and served for 10 years before retiring as a captain. He worked on intelligence and operations security during his service. He has been deployed twice to Kuwait and has traveled to 41 different states, 18 different countries and eight seaports during his military career. 

In February 2013, Snyder married his wife, Lisa. Two months later, he was deployed overseas to Kuwait.

“It was a tough time,” Snyder said. “I was missing her, and I loved her so much. … When you’re in a new relationship, it’s all lovey-dovey and you spend time together and you really learn about each other; well we didn’t get a chance to be lovey-dovey and spend time together.”

“I was scared and worried our marriage was too new for him to deploy,” Lisa said. “We talked about it at length before he left, and he told me that staying in touch would help us stay close.”

THEY CAME FROM THE HEART

During that deployment, Snyder was sent to another country to do some field work.

“(Experiencing) some scary moments got me thinking, ‘I need to communicate with my wife,’” Snyder said. “‘I do it on the phone, I do it on Skype and things like that, but I really need to let her know how I feel and what I’m thinking.’”

That’s when Snyder wrote and sent his first poem.

“My heart burst,” Lisa said. “Holding that first poem helped me understand that he was always thinking about me. Each letter became more and more special as I knew that he put his heart into every ode.”

Throughout his service, Snyder sent his wife more and more poems with varying themes. Some poems were short, some were long and some were funny.

But they all came from the heart.

“Even though she wasn’t there when I wrote it, I felt like she was there, because she was on my mind (and) she was in my heart as I wrote these (poems),” Snyder said. “Every downtime (and) every time at night, I got a chance to scribble out these odes and just think about what it would be like to be home. … It was kind of lonely, so I got to express myself instead by writing these odes.”

ODES FOR THE WORLD

Snyder’s wife kept all the poems he sent to her, and in 2017, the couple released “Odes from the Sandbox: A Field Kit for Letters Between Soldiers and their Beloved.” Snyder exlained “Sandbox” is a term that refers to being deployed to an area with desert-like conditions.

In addition to Snyder’s poems, the book includes “call to action pages,” where a reader is challenged to write their own poem to send to a loved one. It also includes pages that could be ripped out and turned into postcards for the poems a reader has written. Although the book was targeted toward military personnel and their loved ones, Snyder said it’s been accepted by everyone who has picked it up.

“Everyone can use this book,” Snyder said. “I thought it was just going to be (for) soldiers and (their) families. What I found out is it’s a book for everyone; everyone who wants to communicate with each other, who wants to show their love, who wants to give little reminders of how much they adore their partner.”

He added that the impact his book has had on readers has made him very happy.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been — not for writing the book, but for seeing the impact of everyone I’d written the book for,” Snyder said. “The feedback from that has been just incredible. People call me and write to me and say, ‘You’ve helped me improve my communication with my wife or husband. We feel closer now.’”

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science. Got a story idea? Contact Eric at...

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