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Army General Apologizes for Misprinted Letters

By Lindy Kyzer
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2009 – The Army’s adjutant general apologized yesterday on behalf of the Army for a printing error that resulted in the delivery of 7,000 letters without a by-name salutation to family members who lost a soldier in operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

Brig. Gen. Reuben Jones expressed his disappointment in the error and his team’s concern for the recipients during a special blogger’s roundtable hosted by the New Media Directorate of Defense Media Activity.

The letters, which included the placeholder greeting of “Dear John Doe,” were printed and sent by a contractor in late December to inform families of private organizations that offer services and assistance.

“I can tell you, I know our pain isn’t what our family members’ pain is about receiving this, but I have a team of dedicated young Americans who are on a first-name basis with many of these survivors, and they feel this hurt just as bad,” Jones told the bloggers and online journalists. “But they are marching on because they know that their intent was to connect with them and provide them information on the generosity of our nation that has come to the Army and said, ‘We want to help.’”

Jones did not go into the details about who made the mistake, but said contracting officials would look into the error and how it happened. Jones said his team’s focus now is on the families. Each family will receive a letter of apology from Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey.

“We work so hard to build that trust and a relationship with our families so they know that they’re still part of this Army team, because they have been strong families for this strong Army,” Jones said.

The letters were sent as a part of the Survivor Outreach Services program, which sends the families of fallen soldiers regular correspondence and ensures they have regular contact with Army representatives. The program, launched in February, continues to build a closer, stronger bond with spouses and family members, Jones said.

“Survivors are part of that family for as long as they desire,” Jones said. “We will give that support to them, day in, day out …. One part of our covenant, our warrior ethos says -- it’s the last line -- and it says that we will never leave a fallen comrade. We expand that to say that we will never leave a family behind either.”

The program not only reaches out to families, but also offers families the means to reach out to the Army with their needs and suggestions.

“We continue to connect with our families, receive their comments and feedback on what we can do better,” Jones said. “This is a program that we say, hey, tell us what else we can do.”

The misprinted letter, a part of regular SOS outreach to families, included links to dozens of organizations offering services and assistance to the families of fallen soldiers. For a listing of the organizations included on the letter, visit https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/Active/TAGD/CMAOC/ALTFCM/programs.html.

(Lindy Kyzer is a public affairs specialist with the Department of the Army).

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