Citizens Bank continues to salute new 'Military Mail'
From Staff Reports

   Citizens Bank's 13 Tri-Cities offices will set up their "Military Mail" posts again this year on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and will have cards available for the public to sign through Nov. 15. The offices will also be displaying some of the letters the bank received from service members.
   "Giving our customers and the public an opportunity to send words of encouragement to the troops is a great way to show our appreciation and honor those who have served in the past," said vice president of marketing and public relations Angie Martin.
   Last year Citizens Bank Tri-Cities sent more than 700 holiday greeting cards to men and women serving in the United States armed forces across the world.
   The bank didn't expect to get any mail in return, but since sending the cards last November, a steady trickle of letters has come into the bank from U.S. service members expressing their appreciation for the words of support.
   One serviceman, Peter, responded last July to a Christmas card he had received. "I wanted to say thank you for your card even though it's not Christmas. Your words of encouragement help," Peter wrote. "I am 22 years old and I have been in the Army for just over four years. I'm from Massachusetts originally and stationed in Virginia. I volunteered to take this mission in Afghanistan, and it's the little things like writing these letters and sending these cards that you nice people do to make it more than worthwhile. Thank you!"
   In September, an Air Force captain named Michael responded to a card he had received. "Thanks for your note and support of those who serve," wrote Michael, a Kingsport native, who currently lives in Atlanta, Ga. "We're a good bunch over here and plan to do you proud."
   "I would like to thank you for taking the time to write my men and women here in Al Udeid, Air Base, Qatar," Pablo, an Air Force sergeant, wrote last August. "We just received your Christmas card and wonderful letter the other day. I can only imagine it arrived by camel caravan."
   "I just received the card that you had sent at Christmastime, even though it's June now. I still got it and I really appreciate you taking your time to go out of the way of your day and write," wrote Mark, a private in Bahrain. "I don't get much mail, and every time that I do (receive) a letter it's like a Christmas present to me. If you can, please pray for us over here and pray that we will be safe and able to come home to see our families again. That would be great of you, if you could do that."
   Citizens started its "Military Mail" program on Veterans Day last year through a non-profit organization formed during the Vietnam War called "Fan Mail for the Troops." The organization collects mail from all across the country -- businesses, schools, churches and other groups -- and then distributes it to the armed forces throughout the world with the help of the Red Cross.
   "After 9/11 last year we wanted to do something special to honor both veterans and those men and women currently serving," Martin said. "The bank started opening on Veterans Day some years ago in response to small business customers who were also open on that day and needed access to our services. It made sense to have our offices serve as collection points for 'military mail' on Veterans Day. Over the summer we started getting letters from men and women primarily stationed in the Middle East thanking us for the cards we sent last year."