-- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their
successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing
in newspapers across the country as U.S. public
opinion on the mission sours.
all the letters are the same.
Gannett News Service search found identical letters
from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion
of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also
known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including
Olympian received two identical letters signed
by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler
and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The
paper declined to run either because of a policy
not to publish form letters.
five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers'
efforts to re-establish police and fire departments,
and build water and sewer plants in the northern
Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.
quality of life and security for the citizens
has been largely restored, and we are a large
part of why that has happened," the letter reads.
describes people waving at passing troops and
children running up to shake their hands and say
not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending
it to soldiers' hometown papers.
soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their
families said they agreed with the letter's thrust.
But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and
one said he didn't even sign it.
23, told his family he signed the letter, said
Moya Marois, his stepmother. But she said he was
puzzled why it was sent to the newspaper in Olympia.
He attended high school in Olympia but no longer
considers the city home, she said. Moya Marois
and Alex's father, Les, now live near Kooskia,
seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until
his father congratulated him for getting it published
in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.
I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said:
'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday,
recalling the phone conversation he had with his
son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style."
spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital
where he was recovering from a grenade explosion
that left shrapnel in both his legs.
Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that
ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that
his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter
and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown
newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter
if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder
was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.
it said is dead accurate. We've done a really
good job," he said by phone from Italy, where
he was preparing to return to Iraq.
Todd Oliver, a spokesman for the 173rd Airborne
Brigade, which counts the 503rd as one of its
units, said he was told a soldier wrote the letter,
but he didn't know who. He said the brigade's
public affairs unit was not involved.
he asked other soldiers in his unit to sign it,
they did," Oliver explained in an e-mail response
to a GNS inquiry. "Someone, somewhere along the
way, took it upon themselves to mail it to the
various editors of newspapers across the country."
Col. Bill MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th infantry
Division that is heading operations in north-central
Iraq, said he had not heard about the letter-writing
had Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for U.S.
Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
recent poll suggests that Americans are increasingly
skeptical of America's prolonged involvement in
Iraq. A USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll released Sept.
23 found 50 percent believe that the situation
in Iraq was worth going to war over, down from
73 percent in April.
letter talks about the soldiers' mission, saying,
"one thousand of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted
from ten jumbo jets." It describes Kirkuk as "a
hot and dusty city of just over a million people."
It tells about the progress they have made.
fruits of all our soldiers' efforts are clearly
visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There
is very little trash in the streets, many more
people in the markets and shops, and children
have returned to school," the letter reads. "I
am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq
and I hope all of your readers are as well."
Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to
a military public affairs officer whose name he
couldn't remember about his accomplishments in
Iraq for what he thought was a news release to
be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va.
But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not
sign any letter.
Grueser said he agrees with the letter's sentiments,
he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature
did not contain his own words or spell out his
makes it look like you cheated on a test, and
everybody got the same grade," Grueser said by
phone from a base in Italy where he had just arrived
Marois said she is proud of her stepson Alex,
the former Olympia resident. But she worries that
the letter tries to give legitimacy to a war she
doesn't think was justified.
going to support our son," she said. But "there
are a lot of Americans that are not in support
of this war that would like to see them returned
home, and think it's going to get worse."
October 11, 2003