Terry Clawson had neat piles of letters stacked around her living room. Lots of letters, 13,669 letters all ready to be sent off to service members overseas.
"I want them to know how much we appreciate them and what they do," Clawson said. "Sometimes they don't know that or hear it enough."
The Brookings Emblem Club #265 has been sending letters to service members overseas since 2002 and this year will be sending its largest batch of letters ever, surpassing its amount from last year of 13,519. But for Clawson, who helps organize the Emblem Club campaign, writing letters to troops overseas has been something she has done since two of her sons were in Vietnam in the 1960s.
"Our son got home from Vietnam and said there were some guys who didn't get letters," Clawson said. "So I started writing letters. I think every man over there should get a letter."
Clawson continued writing letters to troops while she moved from Montana to Las Vegas and then to Brookings.
When she got involved with the Brookings Emblem Club, the group decided it needed a new Americanism project and Clawson suggested the letters project.
The club wrote 458 letters in its first year, and has steadily increased the amount every year since then.
"We always try to write one more letter than last year," Clawson said.
Sending the letters costs money, around $3,000, and to raise the money, many local businesses help support the effort by providing donations and giving supplies for breakfast fundraisers.
Letter writers may hand-write or type their letters and then make copies of them, with local businesses donating use of their copy machines to copy the letters.
Besides Clawson, 17 others wrote letters for the letter writing project. Clawson said she has stayed in contact with some of the recipients of her letters over the years.
"It makes you feel good they got them and appreciate them," Clawson said.
The letters were packed up in five boxes and sent from the Harbor Post Office on Thursday morning. The letters are shipped to Friends of Our Troops, an organization in Missouri that organizes the letters and ensures that troops overseas receive them.
"Most of the people in this town are very patriotic people, who believe in what the country stands for," Clawson said.