Terry Clawson with some of the 13,400 letters headed to U.S. military members worldwide. The Pilot / Lorna Rodriguez
Military members around the world will receive 13,400 letters this year from 25 Brookings-Harbor residents telling them how much their service is appreciated.
It’s all part of the “military mail” project coordinated by the Emblem Club #265 Americanism program.
“I do it because it helps the military,” Americanism chair Terry Clawson said. “If one soldier gets a letter that would not get one otherwise, it makes me happy. One letter can make a difference to a soldier.”
Military mail supports the national program “Troop Fan Mail,” which sends letters to military members around the world.
This year’s collection was mailed Thursday. Once a year, Clawson sends the notes to a clearing house in North Carolina. From there they are mailed to military hospitals, bases and ships all over the world.
The local effort was started by Clawson when she moved to Brookings about 14 years ago. Emblem #265 was looking for an Americanism program, and Clawson said “Oh! I have one!”
“Everybody was enthusiastic about it,” Clawson said. “It’s just grown since then from 458 letters to 13,400. I’m pleased and I’m proud that we’ve grown and (that it’s) become an ongoing thing each year.”
Emblem #265 members Karen Lennartz, Sharon Westbury and Cleo Curtiss all take part.
“They’re over there putting their lives on the line, and I want to let them know I appreciate it, and that I care,” Lennartz said. “I like hearing from them. On average (in) a year I receive five to eight letters back. They tell you they’re so glad you wrote, glad you care, that sort of thing.”
Lennartz wrote 500 letters this year.
Westbury participates because her husband was in the military for 20 years.
“He was in ’Nam and whatnot, and I just think it’s important that our guys that are over there in that nasty area get some sort of support,” Westbury said. “I just love the USA. I just think it’s super-important to be supportive. They have to have a good support system in order to handle and take the day by day that they are thrown into over there. Our guys just need everything we can throw at them or send to them and then some.”
Westbury wrote 1,700.
“It’s so rewarding to do it,” Curtiss said. We love to get answers from them. They go all over the world. We never know where they go, or when we’ll hear from them. It’s really neat to hear where they are and what they’re doing. Most of them have families and stuff and are anxious to get home. It makes it worthwhile.
“It’s just a thrill to think that we brighten somebody’s day. Warm, fuzzy feeling, that’s what it is.”
Curtiss wrote 300.
Clawson has been involved in the organization since 1969 when her two sons were fighting in Vietnam.
“As time progressed … I just kept doing the program,” Clawson said.
In her letters, Clawson writes how she appreciates military members’ service, and tells them a bit about her life and family and how nice the people in Brookings are. At the end of each message she includes her contact information.
“I try to make them understand that as far as I’m concerned they’re all heroes,” she said.
On average, Clawson writes two to three letters a year, and then copies them. This past year, she wrote 3,400.
“Some ladies do 50, some do 300, some do 500,” Clawson said. “People call and ask how many I need.”
Local businesses like banks, grocery stores, insurance companies and copy centers support the program as well, with food and monetary donations for fundraisers and free copies.
Clawson has to raise about $3,000 each year to cover shipping costs.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Clawson said. “There aren’t a lot of towns that support this type of a program. I’m thankful for all of them.
“It’s so worthwhile. It makes me feel good to try to make people happy.”