USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC 20) -- In this fast-paced, do-it-now world of email, cell phones and other 21st century gadgets, letter writing has almost become a lost art. Yet, for Cpl. James A. Williams, an administrative clerk assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, it has become a passion.
He is now writing to 24 children in several states.
"I thought about writing to one pen pal, but the first one was really interesting," he said, "so I decided to see what other kids had to say. It's interesting to see the questions they ask like what rank I am, what kind of weapons we use, whether we talk to our families."
Williams said other letters are supportive of the military.
"When you receive a letter like that where they say we know you're away from your family and we're sending words of support and we're thankful for your support, it reminds you of the reason you are over here, " he said.
CJTF-HOA's mission is to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa region and is working to establish long-term stability in the region.
The Enid Oklahoma native acknowledged it's sometimes hard being away from family and home, especially during the holidays. Letters help fill this void.
"Some try not to think about it, some try to block out it's the holiday season. That way they can better deal with it," he explained. "But when I receive letters, it makes me feel like someone out there actually cares we are over here."
Yet, it's not only receiving that is rewarding. Sending a reply back is equally rewarding, according to Williams, and he tries to make his letters as interesting and visually appealing as possible.
He decided his letters on plain paper were too boring, so he livened up his stationary with a cartoon character dressed in camouflage utilities with a helmet and firing a rifle. He also added a bold, red Marines logo with eagle, globe and anchor, similar to the one used on the official United States Marine Corps web site.
"I figured if I received something like this when I was a kid, I would have thought it was great," he said. "Maybe it'll help the recruiting effort sometime down the road."
Williams also corresponds with his sister, who is in the U.S. Air Force as well as his grandmother and an "almost " girlfriend who both live in Enid.
Down the road for Williams, he hopes, is Inspector & Instuctor duty in Enid, Okla. after he leaves the task force. Other future aspirations include being assigned as a drill instructor and Marine Security Guard duty. Once he leaves the service he says he'd like to teach ROTC in a high school or college.