(This article was written by By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs)
A Michigan elementary-school teacher and mother of a USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) Sailor is supporting her son through a letter-exchange initiative while the Virginia-class submarine is deployed.
While the idea for the letter-exchange was launched prior to their deployment earlier this year, but as of July 30, the initiative has been a success according to
Ensign Patrick Coughlin, suppy officer onboard USS New Hampshire, which is home ported in Groton, Conn.
"Every other week, I post between five to 20 letters in the crews' mess for everyone to read and then some guys have taken them and plan to write back," Coughlin said. "I have enough letters to last us all of deployment. The crew has loved the connection to home and the feeling of being truly appreciated for what they do."
Coughlin is in the Supply Corps, which is the Navy's professional staff corps responsible for the supply phases of naval logistics.
Coughlin praised his mother's initiatives to not only support him, but all of the Sailors aboard the submarine. New Hampshire is deployed conducting maritime security operations in the European Command area of responsibility.
"I wanted to help him out because this is the first time he is deployed," said Lynne Coughlin, an educator of fourth and fifth graders at Heritage Elementary in Saline. "I thought it would be kind of great to share letters with him and all of his fellow Sailors to keep their spirits motivated."
With the help of other teachers at Heritage Elementary, Mrs. Coughlin collaborated with six other classes to write nearly 200 letters showing their support for Sailors they have never met. Mrs. Coughlin said her reasoning for this letter-writing campaign was two-fold.
"The kids need to know that freedom isn't free," said Mrs. Coughlin. "Most of these kids don't know about the different branches of the military and they actually love learning about their collective service to our nation. And, the letters also connect these Sailors with their nation."
In addition to writing letters for the Sailors serving on the deployed submarine, Mrs. Coughlin shows her support to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) every November.
"The other way I show support for the military is by working with my local VFW Hall and participate in 'take a veteran to school day'," said Mrs. Coughlin. "I have been participating in this program for many years and I have actually brought veterans who have served in World War II and others who recently returned from Afghanistan."
Mrs. Coughlin added that each student is paired with a veteran during their visit and is afforded an opportunity to learn more about the veterans' service and is tasked with writing his or her biography afterward.
"This year, my father, who is 90, will participate in 'take a veteran to school,'" said Mrs. Coughlin.
When the submarine returns from deployment later this year, Mrs. Coughlin will be one of many waiting on the pier in Groton, showing her support for her son and his fellow Sailors serving aboard USS New Hampshire.
USS New Hampshire was delivered to the Navy Aug. 28, 2008, and then was commissioned at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, on Oct. 25, 2008. She is the third ship to be named for the state of New Hampshire.
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