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For Stacy Dumas and her Air Force husband, Craig, love is spelled with real letters, the kind that require envelopes and stamps. When Craig is deployed, Stacy writes him regularly — with pen and paper. They are familiar with this kind of correspondence. It’s how they fell in love. They met during their college years in 1992, before e-mail was king.

“We were pen pals,” Stacy said. “He was at military school and I was in a performing group that sang at his school. We wrote letters for three years before finally meeting again and soon getting married.”

Separation is difficult but is also an opportunity, Stacy said: “His deployment rekindled some of that fun, romantic letter writing that we used to do, complete with scented stationery. Oh yes, I go there!”

The Dumas children shared some of their nightly e-mail messages to Daddy for a previous Spouse Calls column.

Stacy said she and her children write “tons” of e-mail during deployment.

“In addition to that, we send two or three postcards a week.” Stacy bought a stack of postcards highlighting the Los Angeles area where they are stationed. She stamped and addressed them ahead of time.

“So any time we want to say a few words — or the kids can draw a picture on it — then we just pop it in the mailbox.

“We loved when Craig sent a picture of himself standing at his desk, and behind him you can see the cards and drawings we have mailed him,” Stacy remembers. “We loved making him feel good.”

Bernadette Mastroianni, stationed in Germany, agreed with Stacy that a tangible reminder from home is important.

“I believe in the frequent contact that e-mails can bring,” said Bernadette, recalling her husband’s deployment. “But I also send actual letters and cards, something he can hold on to and put on his desk or by his cot.”

This was important to her grade- school-aged son, also. “My son definitely likes making special cards and notes to send his dad. I think it is important for him to feel like he is doing something that will brighten Daddy’s day. I don’t think he feels the same about e-mails. He can’t put his creativity to work as readily.”

Kelley Craver, stationed in Italy, agrees. “Nothing says ‘You mean a lot to me’ like handmade cards and handwritten letters,” she said.

“Surprisingly, my children — one pre-teen and two teens — enjoyed writing letters and making special cards and calendars for their father when he was deployed, and he loved it.”

“Likewise, they were floating on cloud nine whenever he wrote them back,” Kelley said. “While he did e-mail frequently, they were not nearly as interested in sitting at the computer as they were in receiving something via the postman.”

Katy Howard, from Stacy’s neighborhood in California, said: “My children and I hand make cards for almost every holiday and occasion. So, I guess I tend to go the old fashioned way, which is funny, since I’m e-mailing you now.”

In fact, Stacy, Bernadette and Kelley also e-mailed their thoughts about letter- writing to me. I stay in touch with friends and family all over the world with e-mail, and I’m with Katy, who said: “I guess I just love correspondence.”

E-mail keeps us up to date on daily happenings, needs and information. It expresses our care and concern; but for delivering reminders of love over long distance, the pen is mightier than the keyboard.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts about real mail (electronically) on the Spouse Calls blog: or at spousecalls@stripes.com.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes (sometimes even with pen and paper) in Germany, where she is stationed with her husband at Ramstein AB.

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