Issue Date: March 01, 2004

Postal service investigates mail returned to senders

By Karen Jowers
Times staff writer

Relatives of some troops in Iraq are asking why mail is coming back to them unopened and never delivered — months after their service members returned from the war zone.

Military postal officials are investigating the reports, said Tesia Williams, a spokeswoman for the Military Postal Service Agency in Alexandria, Va.

The investigation involves mail not only in Iraq but also other areas, including Qatar, Kuwait and Afghanistan, she said.

Investigators are trying to determine if the problem is widespread or isolated, she said, adding that the postal agency received no reports of undelivered mail before being contacted by Army Times.

The mother of a soldier who deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division said she’s had 13 letters returned, beginning Feb. 6. Her son returned from Iraq in late July.

The returned letters were postmarked between March and June. Her son’s girlfriend also has received returned letters. She checked with other mothers of division soldiers and found eight who were getting returned letters, too, starting in February.

“Between all of us, I’ve counted 47 letters,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified.

An Army wife whose husband is stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., said six out of 10 packages she sent her husband came back to her after her husband returned in June. The last package came back at the end of November.

The Army mother said the letters were unopened, intact, with no markings or damage. Items she sent in the envelopes were still there. But one unusual thing about the letters was that “they all smelled like incense,” she said. “There’s nothing like that in my house.”

She said she and her family members tried to limit the mail they sent to avoid burdening the postal system, often putting several letters in one envelope.

“I just wish they would stop coming!” she said after receiving a letter Feb. 17 that was postmarked May 17, 2003. “This breaks my heart knowing some mother out there who lost her son is getting mail back that she poured her heart into, and to find out that her son never even got a chance to read them.

“How could this happen?”

You can reach staff writer Karen Jowers at 800-424-9335, Ext. 8973, or

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