— The letters appeared in roughly 12 newspapers across the country. From Massachusetts to California, and many places in between, family members and local newspapers received letters from soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment detailing their successes in northern Iraq.
Each letter was signed by a different soldier, but the words were identical:
"Kirkuk is a hot and dusty city of just over a million people. The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms. After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, into the 110-degree heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city. Children smile and run up to shake hands and in their broken English shouting, "Thank you, Mister."
Amy Connell, of Sharon, Mass., knew as soon as she received the letter from her son Adam that he did not write it. "He's 20 years old and I don't think his language or his writing ability would have entailed that kind of description," she said.
She was right. Her son didn't write the letter. In an e-mail to ABCNEWS today, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, said the "letter-writing initiative" was all his idea.
Caraccilo said he circulated the form letter to his soldiers to give them "an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk. As you might expect, they are working at an extremely fast pace and getting the good news back home is not always easy. We thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving Iraq and share that pride with people back home."
Caraccilo wrote that his staff drafted the letter, he edited it and reviewed it and then offered it to the soldiers. "Every soldier who signed that letter did so after a careful read," he said. "Some, who could find the time, decided to send their own versions, while others chose not to take part in the initiative."
Caraccilo was unapologetic, saying that the letter "perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground."
"With the current and ongoing media focus on casualties and terrorist attacks, we thought it equally important to share with the American public, and especially the folks from our soldier's hometowns, the good news associated with our work in Kirkuk," Caraccilo added.
Kirkuk Less Violent Than Other Iraqi Cities
Indeed, Kirkuk has seen improvement over the past several months, and is far less violent than other areas of Iraq.
Amy Connell had no problem sending the letter to her local paper, The Boston Globe, even though she knew her son hadn't written it.
"I thought the letter was a good representation of what they are doing over there in Kirkuk," she said. "It just showed the positive aspect that is coming out of the war, and what they, our soldiers, are doing over there for the Iraqi people."
But The Boston Globe wasn't happy to learn about the origin of the letter. An editor at the Globe told ABCNEWS that it was "a big disappointment."
"Our readers have a right to expect letters that are originals," he said.