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Support comes in letters and prayers

Ryan Graff

Cathy Meskel saves a spot above the register of her Rifle pet shop for photos of people she doesn’t know. Most of the photos are of stone-faced kids, dressed in uniform, cap pulled low on their foreheads, with an American flag in the back ground. Others are of young men sitting on tanks or in front of Army vehicles, wearing green or brown T-shirts, smiling for the camera. Meskel doesn’t know any of the men personally, but she does know what they’ve done. Each of the men on her Wall of Honor, has served the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan. For their service, Meskel makes sure each of them receives a letter explaining who she and her family are, and that she lives in Rifle. She sends each of them a medallion of St. Michael, the patron saint of soldiers. In a year and half Meskel has sent 12,000 letters, and spent $3,800. The cost of her letter-writing campaign, half of which has come from her pocket, is not what Meskel seems to think about, though. “These soldiers are there and they need to know that somebody is caring for them and praying for them,” she said. Meskel’s task certainly seems extraordinary, but in Garfield County, she is one of many that support American troops they’ve never met. Betty Scranton of Glenwood Springs, started sending care packages to troops with local ties in March, 2003. She keeps a list of local soldiers and sends letters from kids, cookies, phone cards, and wet-wipes. Neither woman gets much in return. Meskel has a binder full of return letters, and once had a soldier from Silt who received her letter walk in to her pet store. Some soldiers have e-mailed Scranton a “thank-you,” but she admits, “many of them are not letter writers.”Still, both women keep going, and have actually run out of troop names and addresses.Many in Garfield County have supported American troops through letter writing and care packages, but Scranton and Meskel seem to have a deep connection to them. Both women started supporting American troops during Vietnam and were shaped by those experiences. Meskel wore a POW bracelet for Lance Sijon, and met his mother through a phone call. Scranton worked as a stewardess on the Continental Airlines flights flying soldiers from the United States to Vietnam. On one flight home from Vietnam, Scranton woke a sleeping soldier with a touch. He startled awake and reached for his gun. “That was pretty powerful,” she said. “You don’t realize it until you are looking back on it.”So Scranton, like Meskel, is determined to see soldiers serving in Iraq shouldn’t have to bear the same treatment that Vietnam veterans endured. “I have the sense about this war that (like Vietnam) it is life changing for America,” said Scranton. “Those soldiers were spat upon, called baby killers, murderers,” she said. “I want these guys and gals to know that we love them, we honor them, and we recognize their sacrifice.””(Soldiers) need to know that somebody is caring for them, and praying for them,” said Meskel. A letter and a prayer seems a small token of appreciation, but that’s certainly not what Miguel Angel Pequeño, a soldier from Texas thought. “A letter from a stranger can make all the difference,” he wrote.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 520rgraff@postindpendent.com Breakout:Two Garfield County women are both looking for names and addresses of soldiers. If you know of any, contact: Betty Scranton at 945-6855, or Cathy Meskel at 385-3868. Two Garfield County women are both looking for names and addresses of soldiers. If you know of any, contact: Betty Scranton at 945-6855, or Cathy Meskel at 385-3868.


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