In his first few weeks in office, sometime between celebratory bill signings and phone calls from foreign leaders, President Obama sat in the Oval Office for the most somber task of his presidency - penning letters to families of troops killed in combat.
The letter was signed “Barack,” Ms. Merz told The Washington Times.
“Not ‘president,’ just his first name, and it just felt like, OK, my son has been acknowledged,” she said.
Mr. Obama personalizes each letter, asking staffers to gather details about the service member, such as their hometown and where they were stationed, a White House aide said. The letters are sent to parents and spouses, and sometimes children of the fallen troops.
The president writes the notes by hand, then the letters are typed before he adds his signature.
Mr. Obama wrote the first few letters for troops who died in Iraq and Afghanistan while George W. Bush was president, and has written at least a dozen more since taking office.
The president told NBC News that the duty falls to him, though he did not initiate the wars and opposed the invasion of Iraq. In those moments of signing the letters, he said, “you realize every decision you make counts.”
The White House declined to release any of the private letters or the names of families who received them, but The Times spoke with some who shared the contents of their letters.
Cpl. Brennan, 25, was supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Farah province when he was killed last month.
Ms. Merz said the president’s letter to her family in honor of her son was “lovely” and added, “It is meaningful to have Julian’s death noted personally by him.”
Six weeks before Cpl. Brennan was deployed, the Brooklyn resident married his fiancee to make sure she would have benefits if he was killed abroad.
Ms. Merz said she and her son often talked about national service. Like the president, she opposed the war in Iraq. As for Afghanistan, she described herself as ambivalent, but said that she and her son came to an agreement that “if our nation was going to engage in military action, everybody should serve.”
As a parent of someone in combat, she realized, “I no longer have the privilege of saying I don’t agree and not paying attention to what our nation was doing,” she said.
Ms. Merz said she was struck by the personal tone of Mr. Obama’s letter, which arrived before the official correspondence from Congress, and she wasn’t sure whether they were his words or those of a staffer.View Entire Story
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