(11/24/2003) First-Person accounts of touching events are compelling, and we want to share them with others. Unfortunately, once the author's intended audience is surpassed, we quickly see the pitfalls of a message that wasn't written for mass distribution.
SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT
What follows is a message from Vicki Pierce about her nephew James' funeral (he was serving our country in Iraq ):
"I'm back, it was certainly a quick trip, but I have to also say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in Texas .
The service itself was impressive with wonderful flowers and sprays, a portrait of James, his uniform and boots, his awards and ribbons. There was lots of military brass and an eloquent (though inappropriately longwinded) Baptist preacher. There were easily 1000 people at the service, filling the church sanctuary as well as the fellowship hall and spilling out into the parking lot.
However, the most incredible thing was what happened following the service on the way to the cemetery. We went to our cars and drove to the cemetery escorted by at least 10 police cars with lights flashing and some other emergency vehicles, with Texas Rangers handling traffic. Everyone on the road who was not in the procession, pulled over, got out of their cars, and stood silently and respectfully, some put their hands over their hearts, some had small flags. Shop keepers came outside with their customers and did the same thing. Construction workers stopped their work, got off their equipment and put their hands over their hearts, too. There was no noise whatsoever except a few birds and the quiet hum of cars going slowly up the road.
When we turned off the highway suddenly there were teenage boys along both sides of the street about every 20 feet or so, all holding large American flags on long flag poles, and again with their hands on their hearts. We thought at first it was the Boy Scouts or 4H club or something, but it continued .... for two and a half miles. Hundreds of young people, standing silently on the side of the road with flags. At one point we passed an elementary school, and all the children were outside, shoulder to shoulder holding flags ... kindergartners, handicapped, teachers, staff, everyone. Some held signs of love and support. Then came teenage girls and younger boys, all holding flags. Then adults. Then families. All standing silently on the side of the road. No one spoke, not even the very young children. The last few turns found people crowded together holding flags or with their hands on their hearts. Some were on horseback.
The military presence...at least two generals, a fist full of colonels, and representatives from every branch of the service, plus the color guard which attended James, and some who served with him ... was very impressive and respectful, but the love and pride from this community who had lost one of their own was the most amazing thing I've ever been privileged to witness.
I've attached some pictures, some are blurry (we were moving), but you can get a small idea of what this was like. Thanks so much for all the prayers and support."
END CHAIN LETTER TEXT
On March 23, 2003, Spc. James M. Kiehl, of Comfort, Texas, died when his convoy was attacked near al-Nasiriyah in Iraq. James was one of a team of mechanics, cooks and supply clerks from the US Army’s 507th Maintenance Company en-route to repair the computers on a set of Patriot missile launchers. He left behind a wife and unborn son.
It was James' wish to be buried not in a military funeral but in the Centre Point Cemetery, near his family's home. The above chain letter is an account of James' funeral procession written by his aunt, Vicki Pierce, and accurately describes the very visible outpouring of support the small community showed for James and his family.
As happens very often with moving first-person accounts, the message above was intended for a circle of the author's friends and associates. As such, the author omits several important facts her intended audience should know (date, place, names, etc.). When the message began circulating at-large, these assumed details did not travel with it, causing many to question its authenticity. In fact, validating it proved a difficult task given the few facts retained in the version above.
Vicki Pierce has since established a Web memorial to her fallen nephew that contains the account above, more photos, news articles about James and information on his family.
BreakTheChain.org recommends against forwarding first-person accounts that do not include verifiable details, such as when and where the events occurred, the author's full name and contact information and the full name of parties mentioned.