Friday, January 9, 2009

US Army Apologizes for "Dear John Doe" Letters

I rarely discuss anything that is overtly negative about the military unless I feel like I can add interesting commentary to it. The truth is, I wouldn't be who I am today had I not been a military brat. And I'm very proud of who I am, and how I got here. And I'm proud of the military heritage our country has.

But I came across a few articles that caused me to sigh - let me tell you about the Army's latest situation.

On Wednesday, the Army formally announced apologies to the 7,000 relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan that received letters addressed to "Dear John Doe."

The letters, which were sent from a contractor, had all the best of intentions. They were to inform these relatives of private organizations that offer assistance to those who have lost relatives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The letters were obviously supposed to have specific and personalized greetings - instead they read "Dear John Doe." To remedy the situation, the Army has publicly apologized and Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, has promised to send a personal letter to each recipient of the improperly addressed correspondence. That's 7,000 personal letters if anyone is counting.

The situation made me pause - I was sad for the families who received the letters but I also feel for the U.S. Army.

If I were to put myself in the shoes of a letter recipient I would have been very shocked. Even if it would have been memo style with the to section reading "To: Relatives and Families of Our Lost Soldiers" I would have been fine. I know there's a lot of soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice. My name is not essentially important to the Army. But "Dear John Doe"? I hope that the recipients did take note that the intentions of the letter were pure, helpful and were meant to be heartwarming. (I read the letter on

If I were the U.S. Army, I'd begin looking for a new contractor. I think they did the right thing by acknowledging their mistake and publicly apologizing to all of the families. I do hope, that Casey does write a personal letter to all of the recipients. But realistically, I know that's 7,000 letters and we're in the middle of a war. But I hope his staff helps and that he gets them out. Soon.

It's hard, in times of war, for everything to run smoothly. Our military - all branches - is stretched thin. It's something that Americans tend to forget. And in the grand scheme of things, it isn't something that should be blown out of proportion. But that's just my opinion.

No comments: