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Letter writers thank military service members overseas as Sept. 11 anniversary approaches

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  September 9, 2013 06:00 PM

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Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Karen Jordan, the daughter of a World War II veteran, wrote a letter to a military service member on Monday.

Larry Collins served in the US Navy, like his father and his grandfather before him, and he believes there is something that connects every member of the US military.

“It doesn’t really matter if you served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or peacetime; there’s some common bond between brothers,” said the Malden resident, 50, who worked as an aviation electrician while serving his country from 1980 – 1986.

Collins was among hundreds who paused Monday inside South Station to write a letter of thanks to the men and women currently serving overseas.

On Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, local residents will have a second chance to write American troops, as volunteers assemble care packages at the Mother’s Walk on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

The Sept. 11 event is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino all set to appear, according to organizers.

The letters and packages are part of a campaign spearheaded by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund and the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

Chris Lessard, a program assistant for the Heroes Fund, said the events help bring together families that have lost members in war as well as those who lost a loved one in the Sept. 11 attacks.

For the Newton resident, 35, the organization’s work has personal meaning.

“I do it because I’m a vet and I knew people that died in the war,” Lessard said.

Lessard served as a Marine from 1996 – 2000 and re-enlisted just before the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, later serving in the occupation of that country and rising to the rank of sergeant. He said he had been relatively lucky in Iraq.

“There’s always somebody that has it worse than you,” he said. I know people that saw things 10 times worse than what I saw.”

Lessard said the Heroes Fund provides counseling, financial assistance, and a network of support for families that have lost a member in the US military.

“You see how you can help someone who’s really going through enough as it is,” he said.

Monday’s letter-writing event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company in cooperation with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the state Department of Transportation.

Peggy Dozier, a MassDOT staff member, was among the volunteers assisting letter writers. She said she was glad the department supported the volunteer efforts of its employees.

“This is my second year of doing it, and I love it,” she said. “And I know that the service members love it, to get these little boxes with notes inside.”

Dozier, whose father was a Marine drill instructor, said military discipline had been a big part of her life as she grew up.

“You got up when the sun came up, or maybe before that, or else you’d wasted the whole morning,” she said.

Karen Jordan, an MBTA employee, said her father was a World War II veteran named Robert Dorsey Bond. He came home with a bullet still lodged in his leg, she said, requiring him to wear a brace for the rest of his life.

“I support the men overseas all my life,” said Jordan, 65. “And I hope we don’t go to war again, either. … Any man or young woman that signs up, that goes, I’m very proud of them. I wish we could do more for them, because they’re not in the right conditions that they should be in.”

Larry Collins, the Navy veteran, also expressed concern about the possibility of the US becoming entangled in another war.

“The way I look at Syria, what’s going on there right now — we have no business being there,” Collins said. “But at the same time, they have a dictator there that has killed people with sarin gas.”

Collins, an electrical foreman for the Commuter Rail, said he feels the conflicts the US faces in this century are more complex and ambiguous than those of his father’s and grandfather’s generations.

“You don’t know who the enemy is,” he said.

So far, none of Collins’ six children have expressed interest in military service, he said, but he supports whatever careers they may choose to pursue.

“I would never put any boundaries or parameters on my kids,” he said. “If they know what they want in life, go for it.”

Nina Collins, 17, his third-eldest child and only daughter, also came to write a letter of thanks. It wasn’t her first — she had written to a friend’s father who served in Afghanistan back when she was in the fourth grade.

“I like it,” she said. “A simple thing like this can put a smile on somebody’s face and [let them] know that we’re thinking about them.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

Larry and Nina Collins.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Larry Collins, at left, and his daughter Nina talked as they composed letters to service members overseas.

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