A class project more than 26 years ago has led to a friendship between a local couple, and a former Hamilton County teenager.Anna Linam, who grew up in sand Mountain, Ala., was attending Chattanooga …
A class project more than 26 years ago has led to a friendship between a local couple, and a former Hamilton County teenager.
Anna Linam, who grew up in sand Mountain, Ala., was attending Chattanooga Central High School in 1990, when she and her classmates were asked to write a random letter to a soldier serving in the Mideast.
"We were told to send our letters to the 101st Airborne in New York City, and address them to 'Any Soldier,'" said the former Anna Whitley.
Anna did one thing that many of the other students did not do — she put her return address on her envelope. That return address turned the class project into something more — 26 years later.
Bradley County's Bob Tarver, area manager for Tarver Distributing Company in Charleston, was serving at Camp Eagle in Kuwait in 1990. When the packet of letters came in from the U.S., he noticed one with an address familiar to him — Chattanooga.
It was Anna Whitley's letter, and Tarver said it provided him some relief during a difficult time.
But, nothing resulted from the school mailing over the years. Tarver put the correspondence away, served out his military time, and returned to Bradley County.
Young miss Whitley, now Anna Linam, completed her secondary education, trained to be an occupational therapist, and got married. She and her husband, Donald, now have three children — Josie, 13, Jake, 11, and Jenna, 9.
Anna first went to work at Siskin in Chattanooga, and then was employed at Signature Healthcare in Cleveland in 2002.
About a year ago, Anna's life changed a little bit following a concerted search by Bob Tarver and his wife, Joni.
He said he was looking through his keepsakes from his military years, and found the letter from Anna. Joni suggested they try to find her, and she began the search. They were surprised to find she was working at Signature Healthcare of Cleveland, just a few miles away.
I didn't know anyone was looking for me," she said in a recent telephone conversation. "My boss at Signature told me there were some people wanting to talk with me."
Surprised by the strangers, Ann said Bob asked her, "Do you remember writing a letter to a soldier back in 1990?"
"I told him I didn't remember it, until I read the letter," Anna said. "That was when a flood of memories came over me, and I remembered the class project, and writing the letter. It was very emotional that he had kept it all these years."
The letter writer said it means much more to her now than it would have back then. "I now have a family of my own, and I understand what it would mean to be away from them."
The three have continued to keep in touch over the past year, mostly through social media.
That high school project, and a random correspondence, have created an attachment that will continue into the future.
It also emphasizes what it means to serve in our nation's military, and the sacrifices you make during your service time by being away from home and loved ones — and in harm's way.
Our nation's veterans often hope and dream of just a little touch of home, when far, far away. Tarver felt it back then, as others do today.
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