PRM Honors Veterans With "Wartime Letters"

"Dear Mother, even though I've not sent you anything for Mother's Day, I am writing a few lines tonight to let you know that I haven't forgotten you."

That was one of the many excerpts from "Wartime Letters," a special July 4th presentation from Mississippi Public Radio. PRM, which has eight stations around the state, aired announcements during the spring asking listeners to send in copies of war correspondence from the first two world wars and Vietnam.

Kevin Farrell, a broadcaster at PRM who produced the segments, didn't know what kind of response it would get from the public plea.

"It was funny because they didn't start trickling in for a week or so afterward and for a while we were thinking, 'Are we going to get even one response here?''' Farrell said.

The network ended up receiving four sets of letters. It supplemented those contributions with letters from collections at the University of Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi and the Department of Archives and History.

To put the letters in a historical context, PRM hired Jana Hudson, a master's student in history at the University of Southern Mississippi, whose thesis is on women in Hattiesburg during World War II. Hudson edited the letters - some typed, some handwritten - and wrote intros for the segments.

Farrell said he wanted to get the most "authentic" sound to the letters by using younger, anonymous voices for the segments.

"I think if we used voices that were too recognizable, the listener might start to think, 'Oh hey, it's the governor reading that,' whereas if it's an anonymous voice you can pretend it's the actual person reading the letter,'' he said.

In going through the war letters, Hudson said she noticed the servicemen tended not to write home about battle details, choosing instead to describe the countryside or the people.

"Part of that reason was for security. A lot of their mail was censored,'' she said.

"It may have been they were trying to keep their families at home from worrying, too.'' Farrell said.

PRM's decision to air the letters on July 4 didn't stem directly from Sept. 11, but that the attacks raised the nation's appreciation for those in the armed services.

"We thought of July 4 as being a holiday where people take time to think about our country and its history and that it would be appropriate to recognize those individuals who in many instances risk their lives to preserve what we celebrate on July 4,'' he said.

Farrell says if this year's segment is successful, public radio may honor Mississippi's heroes this way every year.