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Commissaries Aid in Sending "Letters to the Front"

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 1999 – "Dear Service Member, I just want to say thanks for ...".

Judges in the first Letters to the Front Letter Writing Contest will be reading this phrase a lot. All entries must begin with it.

Commissaries are helping to gather letters of appreciation to U.S. troops stationed overseas as part of this wide-reaching contest, said Marsha Roberts, producer of the theatrical show Letters From the Front: WWII, currently touring military bases overseas.

While the show was touring military bases overseas, many troops thanked the company for not forgetting them, said show director- writer Robert Rector.

"It really touched us," he said. "It occurred to us that there was no reason we, as a nation, couldn't have an ongoing letter- writing campaign for our troops."

Thus the Letters to the Front contest was born.

The contest is open to the public. Grand prizes will be awarded in three age categories: under 12, 12-18, and 19 and older. The prizes are $3,000 for school-age contestants and a $3,000 computer system for adults, Roberts said.

Letters must be 100 words or less.

Every commissary currently has special entry forms and deposit boxes. Entries in these boxes are eligible for local prizes, such as T-shirts and baseball caps, Roberts said.

Persons without access to a commissary can send their entries to:

Letters to the Front Contest

6595 Roswell Road, Suite 661

Atlanta, GA 30328.

Members of the nearest chapter of The Retired Officers Association will judge local contests, Roberts said. Where a TROA chapter isn't available, Rector-Roberts Productions, Inc. will judge the entries. The production company will select the grand-prize winners as well.

"The letters will be judged on sincerity of content, basically how well someone expresses their thanks," Roberts said. "We are looking for letters that are from the heart. Our instructions to the TROA chapters are, 'Choose a letter that you would have liked to receive when you were stationed far from home.'"

The contest runs through Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Roberts said, and local winners should be named within 30 days. Winners will be notified by mail. Winning entries will be posted on the Internet at www.letters-from-the-front.com/contest1.htm. Complete contest rules can be found there as well. Roberts said the grand-prize winners will be posted on the Web site by the first week of January 2000.

"The big payoff is when the contest is over and all the letters are sent to our troops stationed overseas," Roberts said. "As far as goodwill is concerned, everyone's a winner. We're very excited about getting lots of letters of appreciation to our service members to remind them they are not forgotten."

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