American Gold Star Mothers
Your Dec. 15, 2011, issue contained two stories I found very poignant and which continue to talk to me. “A Mother’s Love” and “The Mission Continues” were well written and depict two critical teams who do indeed support the troops. Together, these two articles are about a cause that is very near to my heart — supporting the troops.

100,000 AAdvantage miles for your thoughts.

We enjoy hearing what you think about the magazine — so much so that if your letter to the editor is published in a 2011 issue, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win 100,000 AAdvantage miles. Want a chance at the miles? Simply e-mail your thoughts to us at

There is another group that meets somewhere in the middle of the Blue Star Mothers and The Mission Continues — it’s the group of mothers whose blue star in the window turns to gold — the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

I was a Blue Star Mother when my only son, 1st Lt. Thomas M. Martin, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1998. He was deployed in September 2006 and was in Iraq when he was killed in action on Oct. 14, 2007. My blue star in the window turned gold.

I was looking for somewhere to turn my grief into something positive. I quickly found that American Gold Star Mothers (AGSM) was for me. AGSM is an organization of mothers whose sons and daughters have died while in military service of our country. It is a service organization that allows mothers of the fallen to turn their grief and sorrow into something positive by volunteering to support veterans and wounded soldiers.

So, what does a Blue Star Mother do when her star in the window turns gold? Many choose to continue the mission and find comfort and support by way of service.

Thank you for continuing to publish articles that are of great interest to so many.
Candy Martin, San Antonio

Editor Adam Pitluk responds: I cannot begin to express how moved I was by your note, Candy. Your son will live eternally as a true American hero — someone who made it possible for us to have a free press where we’re permitted to have a magazine and to run stories like “A Mother’s Love” and “The Mission Continues.” May God bless you and your family.

New Year’s In Paris
While reading an issue of American Way, I stumbled across an advertisement for the American Airlines AAdvantage card through Citibank and Visa. One of the incentives was a mileage bonus for the first $1,000 spent on the card. After doing research, I discovered that I could take my wife on a dream vacation to Paris. We embarked on an unbelievable trip, and having the bonus miles allowed us to use them for one of our tickets. Had this not been available, we would have never been able to afford the trip. Being able to ring in the new year in Paris was absolutely breathtaking! Thank you, American Airlines and Visa, for allowing us the opportunity to take this incredible trip.
Tyler Bratton, Starkville, Miss.

A.P. responds: It’s the gift that keeps on giving all year long, Tyler. Enjoy!

New year’s in the sky
I booked a ticket to Hawaii on a whim in mid-December and thought I’d enjoy an upgrade on my return eight-hour trip. Alas, I didn’t, as the plane was crowded. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the flight attendants on AA flight 72 from Honolulu to Chicago for their New Year’s Eve cheer, surprising all of us in the back with a champagne toast to bring in 2012.
Y. Cohen, Glenview, Ill.

A.P. responds: I love a good champagne toast … makes me wish I’d have flown on New Year’s Eve.

Caption Conundrum
I was surprised to see a mistake in a photo caption in the story about Nanjing China (“A World Apart,” Dec. 1, 2011). On page 31, there is a photo of round houses which is listed as “the distinctive round houses of a Nanjing village.” These houses are close to 600 miles south of Nanjing, and they are located in the Nanjing county of the Fujian province. How do the photos get selected and how are the facts on these articles checked and verified? This is a blatant mistake that would have been caught with a very minimal amount of fact-checking.
Mark Wichmann, Chicago

Design Director David W. Radabaugh responds: To address your inquiry about our process: We requested images tagged with keywords Nanjing and/or Shanghai from National Geographic Stock and several other reputable sources. The image in question contained the following description: “Nanjing, People’s Republic of China. The landscape and distinctive round houses of a Nanjing village.”

We followed our protocols to the letter. Our error was not recognizing the absence of qualifying details (county vs. city) in the data that was provided with the photo, a consequence of not having a photographer on the ground in Southeast Asia. We regret the error.

Universal Language
I have been flying on American Airlines since 1993. I have always found the AA staff to be very helpful and friendly. Once when we shipped our daughter’s pets to her new home, I made luggage tags that looked like driver’s licenses for their pet crates. The staff got the biggest kick out of the tags.

Recently, I returned to Miami from Santiago, Chile. Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish. The American Airlines staff was bilingual and made my check-in painless. My flight was also staffed by a bilingual flight crew. When a medical emergency developed onboard, the flight crew responded quickly and professionally.
Bob Jaffe, Boca Raton, Fla.

Managing Editor Travis Kinsey responds: You entertain our staff with your creativity and our staff helps you get where you need to be, even when there’s a slight language barrier. Everybody wins!