We love letters. Maybe it’s because our grandmas always used to tape a quarter to our birthday cards when we were little and we now have this Pavlovian thing going on. Regardless, we want to hear from you. Sing our praises, bust our chops, or just tell us what’s on your mind. Send your thoughts to us at editor@americanwaymag.com.

SUPPORTING THE TROOPS
Thanks to editor Adam Pitluk for his editorial “Our Brave Warriors” in the October 15 issue of American Way. We must never forget that we live in freedom brought by [the brave men and women in uniform].

I, too, have witnessed a platoon going through an airport to a spontaneous standing ovation. It is an emotional experience and makes me so proud to be an American. I have a nephew who is in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, and I know from him the heroism and sacrifice our best and brightest are making. Thank you for drawing attention to those heroes in our military.
RUTH GRAHAM, EARLYSVILLE, VIRGINIA

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS:
I appreciate the note, Ruth. I’m just the messenger in this instance, though. I believe it is every American’s duty to respect our servicemen and servicewomen.

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The letters column in your August 1 issue caught my eye; I enjoyed the “Passion Project” article on Gary Sinise in the same issue, which got my attention because my son, Orion, is a pilot in the Marine Corps and is currently in Afghanistan. It’s been gut-wrenching not knowing how he’s doing and even tougher feeling like there’s nothing I can do to support him or help out like I’ve done all his life. Thanks to your article and Gary Sinise, I now have several options for getting involved besides sending stuff through the mail.

The last article in the magazine, Carlton Stowers’s “The Perfect Day,” really touched home. Baseball has been Orion’s passion his entire life, and I coached his Little League team until he joined his high school team, which made it to the semifinals in Texas. This column touched my heart and brought back memories of Orion growing up in baseball. I began writing to my son on a scrap of paper about my memories of his love of the game, which included watching him come up out of the dust smiling with the ball after making a diving catch on a pop-up, how he’d tip his hat to the batter after striking him out, his leaping to snag the last out of the last game of a perfect season in 1994, and, years later on the Fourth of July, 2009, at the USMC base in Hawaii, watching Orion make another diving catch on his elbows during his squadron’s family picnic before deploying -- this time with his daughter, Taylor, by my side.

I wrote down these memories and more, tore out the last page of the magazine, and mailed it and my note to Afghanistan from Charlotte, North Carolina, using a stamp a stranger gave me when he heard where my letter was going.

Thanks for this inspirational edition of American Way, and God bless our troops.
H. STEPHEN JONES, WYLIE, TEXAS

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS:
It’s hard to truly thank the soldiers and sailors for the job they do for us. They are America’s best. We Americans are lucky to have Orion in our lives, as the world is a much better and safer place with him in it, just as he is lucky to have such a proud and supportive father. Pairing those two articles was no accident. It was a subtle move to try to inspire the same patriotism this country showed eight years ago, when American flags hanging outside homes were as common as mailboxes. Sinise is an inspiration to laymen and to Hollywood elite, as he’s unselfishly making a difference. Carlton Stowers’s story about a grandfather and his grandson enjoying baseball touched me as well. Please relay my thoughts and prayers to your son and to his platoon.

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I’ve been flying on business since 1966, and I’ve never had the inclination to write to the airline I’m flying, much less its magazine. So this is a first for me in my 43 years (and two million to three million miles) spent on airplanes. The August 1 article about Gary Sinise was excellent. It’s refreshing to see a successful celebrity put others above himself, particularly regarding an issue 99 percent of Hollywood types hate. And instead of just turning to the crossword puzzle after reading that article, I noticed the AA Insider story “AA Supports the Troops.” After reading that article, I gained a tremendous respect for AA and its employees, which I never had before. I’ll still get frustrated when it rains in Dallas and my flight is late (you know it only rains at the airport!), but it makes me feel good about this positive service AA performs for the troops. Keep up the good work.
TERRY HUTCHINS, FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS:
Terry, I’m honored to be helming this magazine as you wrote your first-ever letter to an in-flight, especially since you’d already been flying for 10 years when I was born. We turned this issue out for the very reasons you’ve mentioned here. This was a slightly different American Way from what we’ve done in the past. Our staff is fiercely patriotic, and we’ve shifted to doing more consequential stories. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much.


Web Exclusives


CROSSWORD CONFUSION
I must object to the crossword puzzle that was in the June 15, 2009 issue. There are certain rules of crosswords which must be followed. Multiple letters in one square are not allowed. Granted, it was cute, and the title of the puzzle was a clue, but I do crosswords for relaxation and fun as well as for stimulation. If there are no rules, there could, at times, be more than one answer. And this puzzle was certainly not relaxing, stimulating, nor fun since it was not able to be completed using the rules that we are used to. If we had been warned that multiple letters were allowed, as an exception to the rules, it may have been fun as an anomaly, but it wasn’t as a standard crossword. I usually enjoy the crosswords and other diversions in the magazine, as they can break up a long flight and because I rarely watch the movie or TV shows, but I certainly will not do the crossword in the future if there are no rules.
E. WILLIAM TUMAN, NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

LESLIE BILLIG, EDITOR, THE UPTOWN PUZZLE CLUB, THREE ACROSS, LLC, RESPONDS:
We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy solving the crossword entitled “Little Rascals” in the June 15 issue of American Way. As you observed, some of the answers contained the letters “I-M-P” in one box, giving you “little imps,” as suggested by the title. This type of crossword, in which multiple letters or even a simple illustration (such as a star) are written into a single square, is called a word-rebus crossword and has been popular for almost 40 years in magazines (such as Dell) and newspapers (such as the New York Times). As long as there is a title that hints at the theme, this is considered fair play. While it can be disconcerting if you’ve never encountered these puzzles before, they are a favorite among solvers who think of crosswords as a game in addition to a test of their knowledge and vocabulary and can be a fun change of pace from regular crosswords.

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COMRADES
I almost fell out of my window seat on a recent flight when I read editor Adam Pitluk’s August 15 “Editor’s Note” in American Way. Why? I bleed black and gold 24/7/365. I am a 1976 Mizzou journalism-school graduate (the bicentennial class), which fulfilled a dream I’d had since the fifth grade. The friends and experiences from those wonderful Columbia days are lifelong (ever so much so because my wife is a Stephens College grad), and I have an annual ritual of returning to the campus for a Tigers football game. I do not work in the journalism world now — actually, I co-own a paper-recycling company, so I suppose I am still in the industry but in a different way — but as my wife and I raised our two daughters, we realized there is a place for everyone. Some students, as you experienced, may be heartbroken at first, while others realize [their destiny] on their initial campus visit. The lawyers have their Harvards, the business world has its Whartons, pro football has its U of Miamis. And writers have Mizzou. Thanks again for the terrific column, and go Tigers!
JOEL LITMAN, DALLAS, TEXAS

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS:
Brother Joel, it’s so great to receive your letter. My MU days were without a doubt the best days of my life. It’s funny: I can remember how I spent some obscure Thursday nights at Harpo’s, and yet I can’t remember what I did last Thursday. I guess the best memories are the ones you try to remember, such as barely beating big bad Bowling Green. Ugh! And like you and your wife, my wife and I are raising our two daughters in true Tiger form: Their favorite stuffed animal is Truman, and you can bet we’ll be giving them the hard sell to go to Columbia.

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YUMMY!
I am on my way to New York and waiting out a ground delay. I read the article on chili, “Blessed Bowl of Hellfire,” in your November 1 issue and am mystified as to why you did not include a good recipe. That was a lot of teasing without reward. Not many of us can fly around the country just for chili, and not all Whole Foods carry the same products.
LISA OAKLEY, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: Ground delays make me hungry, too, Lisa. Simply stated, that recipe for chili, it ain’t for the laypeople among us. They keep that recipe close to the vest. Not everyone can travel around the country in search of the best chili, true, but quite a lot of people do. So this story gave them another stop on that foodie bucket list. But we do love to publish recipes, which is why pages 13 and 14 of that issue included six recipes for Thanksgiving.