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Shortly after the anthrax scare that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, Military Times created a way for ordinary citizens to communicate with those fighting in the war against terrorism – “Letters from a Two-Front War.”
The feature is part of the Military Times website where civilians can post a message in support of service men and women around the world. Likewise, military troops can post messages for citizens to read and/or exchange e-mail addresses to find pen pals.
“Troops all over the place have access to the Internet in different ways,” said Kent Miller, online editor for Military Times.
When most of the deployed troops respond to the posted messages they are probably not in Afghanistan at the time, says Miller, since those in Afghanistan are “busy” with different military operations. However, he says, those stationed on ships and overseas in other areas can certainly access the Web and respond.
Hearing news from home is important to troops, Miller says, adding that many people like to use the site just to send out a note of thanks.
“Primarily it’s civilians expressing their appreciation for service members fighting the war on terrorism,” he said.
Many people live in places where they don’t come into contact with a lot of service members, so it’s important for them to have an avenue to convey support for all the sacrifices troops make, Miller explains.
In response to a note a citizen posted thanking troops serving overseas, Sgt. Duane Holvey wrote in his message, “You can’t imagine how much it means to hear people thank us for what we do.”
Military Times originally started “Letters from a Two-Front War” as a joint project with USA Weekend. Both papers printed a few letters from family members to deployed troops fighting in the war on terrorism and also letters from the troops to their families. Military Times decided to put the many letters it received on its website. The message boards they added, where anyone can post a note to service members, have “taken on a life of their own,” said Miller.
With the World Trade Center attack and the anthrax scares, Miller says, the nation saw an unusual situation where those fighting overseas were actually quite concerned about the safety of family members back at home. The letters USA Weekend and the Military Times newspapers ran gave those involved a chance to express their care and concern to each other as well as to readers. Now, “Letters from a Two-Front War” has messages posted every day from people all across the country.
Said Miller, “Certainly since 9-11 a lot more people are thinking a lot more about the military than they ever have before.”