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Paynesville Press - January 19, 2005

Paynesville resident starts mail drive for American troops

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Valentine's Day greetings from the Paynesville area to American troops serving in the Middle East should soon be on their way overseas, thanks to a drive spearheaded by Paynesville resident Sig Pfeifer, who hopes to gather 1,000 cards and letters to mail to U.S. troops.

Starting on Thursday, Jan. 20, Pfeifer is asking area residents to write notes or make Valentines for service members at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Greetings can be dropped in "mail boxes"- made by members of Boy Scout Troop 34 in Paynesville - that will be placed in area churches, schools, and community buildings, including the library and the American Legion, by Friday, Feb. 4. From there, the mail will be boxed and sent to local service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have agreed to distribute the greetings.

Messages don't need to be long or personal, said Pfeifer, "just a note or card that says 'I'm thinking about you. Happy Valentine's Day.' "

Regardless of one's personal view about the conflicts, Pfeifer believes everyone should show their support for the troops. "You can imagine what the troops feel like when they open a card from Paynesville," he added.

Pfeifer began mail drives for troops in 1967 - during the war in Vietnam - while he was still in college. As a member of the Army, who served on active and reserve duty for 22 years until his retirement in 2002, Pfeifer knows how good it feels to hear the words "mail call" and to get a card from home. Though he felt blessed that he never had to go to war - he was called up for the first Gulf War, but the war was over before his unit deployed - his heart goes out to the men and women serving now.

He continued leading mail drives in the Litchfield community and for students at the Litchfield schools, where he taught German until 2002. By leading the drives, Pfeifer felt like he was helping his students and the community make a difference, and the letters of thanks he received from troops who received greetings from various mail drives confirmed his belief that the the troops appreciated the mail.

"My crew and I would like to thank you for the over 430 Christmas cards and lettersÉ" wrote a sailor from the U.S.S. America in 1996. "The cards were received warmly and in many cases brought smiles and laughter to my division," the letter continued.

Many of those smiles and laughs came after reading greetings from young children.

Pfeifer wants to encourage area schools to get involved in the latest mail drive. Young kids love making cards, he said with a smile, so this is an ideal project for them and a good writing assignment for older students. "It teaches the kids a lot of citizenship," he said.

The mail drive could also be a good project for Sunday School or confirmation students, he added.

Pfeifer hopes the whole community, as well as the schools, will get involved in sending greetings to the troops. After all, it's relatively easy and virtually free to residents since the Paynesville American Legion has agreed to pay the postage.

Pfeifer would like to hold regular mail drives for troops, possibly during other seasonal holidays. He chose to start with Valentine's Day because people tend to respond better during holidays, and Valentine's Day is a holiday when people especially like to send cards.

Greetings should be addressed "To a U.S. Service Member" or "To My Valentine," said Pfeifer. Do not add extra items to the envelope, cautioned Pfeifer, though a photo is OK. The sender's name and return address or e-mail address could be included, but Pfeifer cautioned that the service members may be too busy to write back.

Greetings can be very simple, he said. "They just need to know that someone is thinking about them."

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