uss north carolina postcards

Messages run the gamut, from a 5-year-old’s scribbled drawing to an 80-year-old’s heartbreaking scrawl. But each one — of some 9,000 in the course of a year — bears the same sentiment: gratitude.

For years, schools and visitors to the battleship created homemade Christmas cards that were sent to North Carolina’s four VA medical centers, in Durham, Fayetteville, Salisbury, and Asheville. At the USS North Carolina, “It’s all about the men who served. We honor the military,” says battleship curator Mary Ames Booker. In an interactive exhibit that opened last year, visitors to the battleship’s museum can say thank you all year round with V-mail postcards and a post office box that came right off the mighty ship that’s anchored mere feet away.

Each month, Booker boxes and mails the cards to the medical centers. There are so many cards now that our state’s veterans can enjoy them throughout the year. Though the cards come from one place — the museum — their writers come from all over, and from every stage and walk of life: From current soldiers, retired members of the military, people who are about to go into service. From those who’ve lost a friend, a father, a family member. From entire families, as parents recognize an opportunity for teaching and remembering: Say thank you to someone who served your country. The notes don’t just come from Americans: “You saved us,” a South Korean citizen wrote. “Thank you.”

“Only connect,” writer E.M. Forster advised. “Never forget,” we say so often now. Personal postcards from the USS North Carolina create a connection with our veterans, and ensure that their honor, service, valor, and sacrifice are not forgotten.

Our State subscribers will find a postcard to fill out and send to a veteran on page 145 of the December issue. Not a subscriber? Send your own postcard and address it to:

Battleship North Carolina
P.O. Box 480
Wilmington, NC 28402 

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Kelly is a contributing editor at Our State. She is the author of By Accident and the novels Now You Know, The Last of Something, Even Now, and How Close We Come, winner of the Carolina Novel Award and an alternate selection of Book-of-the-Month Club. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lives in Greensboro.