When Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey started the "Red, White and Blue" letter-writing campaign, he envisioned a program that would allow Soldotna's youth to send letters to the area's military personnel serving overseas.
He didn't expect the program to become a nationwide phenomenon.
The city of Soldotna recently received more than 30 letters from students at Albuquerque Christian School in Albuquer-que, N.M. In addition, the school sent a donation of $30 for the city to use in its program.
Carey said he doesn't even know how the kids in New Mexico heard about his pet project, but he's happy they wanted to help support the troops.
"I just thought it was awesome that Albuquerque, New Mexico, had heard about the program," Carey told the Soldotna City Council last week.
The mayor said he intended to end the program, which he began in February with $500 of city funds, on Sept. 11. But since he got an extra batch of letters, Carey said he didn't see any problem passing the New Mexico letters on to the soldiers.
The letters include wishes that the soldiers return home safely, and also include small bits of information about the students' lives in New Mexico.
Many of the children's letters talk about their families, including one from a 12-year-old girl who describes a home that includes, "six of my own cats."
Most include some form of thanks and encouragement for the service personnel.
"Thank you so much!" reads one. "Some of the country is not behind the war, but I am."
Another says simply, "Thank you for defending America and putting your life on the line every day for me."
Carey said he forwarded the Albuquerque letters to the soldiers from the peninsula currently in the desert. Many of them are former students and athletes who attended Skyview High School, where Carey is a teacher and wrestling coach.
He said he's thrilled the program has turned out so well, and he believes the letters have been a great help to the area's fighting men and women.
In a letter he included with a package of the children's letters from New Mexico, Carey wrote that he's excited with how the program has turned out. He said the simple fact that so many children have participated means the campaign has been a success.
And then there's the response he's gotten from the troops, which Carey said has made the whole program truly worthwhile.
"The letters and e-mails from these individuals in the field have ... been most gratifying," he wrote.
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