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thedrifter
09-15-08, 08:50 AM
Troops using military rations for letters home
BY JAMES GILBERT, SUN STAFF WRITER
September 14, 2008 - 7:53PM

It has been a trying five months for Yuma parents Kim and Mike Norris, whose 19-year-old son is serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan.

The Norrises say they worry constantly about Christopher but the letters they are now getting from him help to ease their fears.

Even the letters he's written on pieces of cardboard cartons that contained military meals.

Being on the front lines, Christopher hasn't had access to much stationery, so he's had to correspond on whatever scraps of paper he can find.

"We hadn't heard from him in several months when we received his first letter," Kim Norris said. "I was so excited I didn't care what it was written on."

Christopher joined the Marines after his graduation from Cibola High in 2006 and was deployed to Afghanistan in March of this year to the Helmand River Province. He is serving there with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The first letter they received from their son came in June, two months after he was deployed, on what is commonly referred to by troops as an "MRE postcards."

MRE postcards are letters written on the back of cartons containing MREs or "meals ready to eat." They're only scraps of brown cardboard, but Kim and Mike say they are worth their weight in gold.

"Just getting something from him is a treat," Kim said, "Every day now, we rush out to the mailbox hoping to get something."

The Norrises have received eight letters from their son now, not all of which were written on "MRE postcards." Some have been written on scraps of paper and on paper they have sent him.

"One of the letters came around Father's Day and another around my birthday in August," Mike said. "I couldn't have had any better gifts than those letters."

The "MRE postcards," which only have the Norrises' address and their son's unit information on it, have all been delivered by mail for free.

The Norrises say they share all the letters with other family members, who also do the same with ones they receive, so everyone can keep in touch.

They also received a phone call from their son recently. It was the first time he has been able to call them since he was deployed.

"He is back in Kandahar now getting ready to demobilize. His morale seems fine," said Mike. "He is even wanting to go back out again and has asked to be detached from his unit and assigned to one that is being sent in. Thankfully, he was told no. So we were glad to hear that."

"He likes the action and of course it scares us when he talks like that," Kim said. "He is out there doing what he wants to do and is proud to be doing it."

While their son can't tell them about the type of operations his unit has been conducting, he does write about his day-to-day experiences.

In one of his "MRE postcards," Chris wrote about how happy he was seeing the Afghan people starting to enjoy their freedoms more, such as shaving off the beards, wearing modern clothes and letting their opium fields die off.

"The locals are shaking our hands more often and cheering for us as we drive by," Kim read from a letter. "They are also starting to cooperate with us more, by informing us where the Taliban is."

In another letter, Chris wrote about how very appreciative he is about receiving care packages being sent by people in the United States in support of the troops.

"He says they always seem to have a lot of candy and other junk food, which they give to the local kids," Kim said. "He says he actually needs things like mouthwash, a battery charger, canned oysters, chipotle Tabasco sauce, black tea and energy drinks."

In another letter, Chris wrote about the heat and said troops stay cool by swimming in snake-infested rivers and streams in the area.

"He says they aren't poisonous, but I don't know what to say about that," Kim said.

Chris even wrote to his mom telling her to stop worrying so much.

"The basis consensus was to chill out and quit overreacting, but I'm a mom, it is not possible," Kim said.

Ellie