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Obama personalizes letters of condolence

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 20, 2009

President Barack Obama has asked staffers to gather details about troops killed in overseas operations so he can personalize condolence letters to their families, according to a report in the Washington Times this week.

White House officials declined to release any of the private letters or the names of families who received them, but copies of the notes are preserved for historical archives. Families who received the letters told the Times the personal touch was important to them.

"It says to me that he, too, will be paying attention to more than just the numbers, but the real stories," Thya Merz told the newspaper. Her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Julian Brennan, was killed Jan. 24 in Afghanistan. She added that her letter was signed "Barack."

"Not ‘president,’ just his first name, and it just felt like, ‘OK, my son has been acknowledged,’" she said.

White House officials told the Times that Obama wrote the first few letters for troops who died while George W. Bush was still president, and has written at least a dozen more since taking office.

In an interview with the Times last year, Bush said he also sent personal letters to the families of all of the servicemembers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Bush met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action, according to former White House officials.


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