- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2003

FARMVILLE, Va. The images of war stream in 24 hours a day, but for many college students busy studying and partying in their campus lives, the war seems far away.
So when Kisha Castelar spotted a link at the bottom of her university's home page to what was billed as a war journal, she hesitated. Did she really want Iraq to become a part of her life?
What she found when she clicked was humanity.
"It's reminded me that soldiers are human, that they are scared and sad and have feelings and desires," Miss Castelar, 23, said last week at a picnic table outside her dorm at Longwood University. "People sometimes detach soldiers from humans. This has helped me break out of that mold."
The journal started as one-half of the correspondence between two longtime friends. When Army Maj. Tim Hale a Longwood alumnus was deployed to Kuwait in February, he began e-mailing his buddies back home. One, college friend Franklin Grant, Longwood's director of planned and major gifts, thought the accounts too interesting to keep to himself.
On April 5, the public university of about 4,300 students in rural southern Virginia put the first "News from the Front" on its Web site, (www.longwood.edu/news/newsfromthefront/), for the world to see.
Maj. Hale, a native of Fairfax who now lives in Orlando, Fla., stressed in an e-mail last week that the journal entries are purely his observations and thoughts. The 39-year-old father of two is nearing the end of a 60-day assignment in Camp Doha in Kuwait, where he has been coordinating the supply of weapons systems for U.S. troops in Iraq.
"I thought it would be a good way for the students to get a perspective of what I saw over there," Maj. Hale wrote in an e-mail. "I also wanted to let them know that great American kids just like them are over here doing the hard part (not older folks like me in the rear area)."
Melanie Moyer, a sophomore from Newport News, has gobbled up the journal entries. Maj. Hale is her source of news, and his journal has made her think deeply about what the young men and women her age are doing half a world away.
"They're fighting and I'm sitting in a classroom. I couldn't imagine doing it. I can't imagine. I couldn't do it," said Miss Moyer, 19.
Mr. Hale's account of a soldier who died having achieved two of his three personal war objectives the third was a safe return moved her nearly to tears.
The journal weaves anecdotes about camp life with vivid descriptions of the desert and its harsh conditions, the Iraqi missile attacks and Patriot responses, the casualties and the fear of terrorism.
He mixes military jargon with jokes, sometimes about the French, and cautions in an entry dated April 15, "this is a very dangerous time for our soldiers."
Longwood officials view the project as a way not only to educate, but to promote school spirit by connecting students and generations of alumni to Maj. Hale, a 1989 graduate. The story will be featured in an issue of the alumni magazine.
Mr. Grant also sees it as a way to get positive news out about the school. Two years ago, Longwood drew national attention when one of its most historic buildings burned to the ground during a night inferno caused by a wiring problem.
Maj. Hale said he's received several hundred e-mails in response to the site.
His mother, who lives in Lake Monticello, outside Charlottesville, is one of its biggest fans. She stayed up until 4 a.m. one day reading all the entries, which date back to late February, and printing them for Maj. Hale's grandmother.
"I'm so proud of him," she said.
. "I'm so proud of what he's doing, and that he's turned out to be quite a good writer. He really makes it all very real."

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