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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Family praises soldier’s form letter

Times Staff Writer

SENECA FALLS — A controversial form letter signed by military personnel and sent to outlets across the country was the idea of a 1980 Mynderse Academy graduate.

Family members and roughly 12 newspapers across the United States received a letter in which a soldier detailed the successes of their 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment in northern Iraq.

Each letter was signed by an individual soldier, so each person who received one thought it was a personal message to them. But, it turns out the words were identical.

This annoyed some publications, including the Boston Globe, which ran the letter not knowing it was a form letter that had been distributed to several soldiers.

The letter-writing campaign was initiated by former Seneca Falls resident Lt. Col. Dominic “Dom” Caraccilo, who has been stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq, since February.

Lisa Anderson, of California Avenue, praised her brother’s efforts this morning.

“We are extremely proud of him,” said Anderson, adding she had no idea about the letter but isn’t surprised her brother initiated it. “He’s the type of person who wants to boost [the soldiers’ morale]. He’s all for that.”

Fran Caraccilo, of East Bayard Street, was just learning about the campaign begun by his cousin this morning.

“I’m not in the Army and not sure how these things work, but I think his intentions were good,” said Caraccilo, noting that the family supports Dominic and his bother, Ed, who is a captain in the Army and assistant operation officer in the 101st Airborne Division, also in Iraq.

Fran Caraccilo, who said his cousins have talked about the dangers in the Middle East, said the letter is a way to highlight some of the work being done there.

“It’s good to hear that they have some good things to say,” he said. “[The Iraqis] don’t just have hatred for this country. They see our people are helping a community over there.”

Anderson agreed, noting that Dominic Caraccilo has told her that some Iraqi’s come up and hug him, thanking him for their assistance. They have also tried to give gifts, such as money or jewels, which her brother has declined.

“There are great things going on over there,” said Anderson, despite all the negative press about the war on terrorism. “We are proud of what he’s doing, and we want everyone to know it.”

On last night’s ABC News broadcast, Caraccilo said he circulated the form letter to his soldiers to give them “an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk. As you might expect, they are working at an extremely fast pace and getting the good news back home is not always easy. We thought it would be a good idea to [capsulize] what we as a battalion have accomplished since arriving in Iraq and share that pride with people back home.”

Caraccilo said his staff drafted the letter, and he edited and reviewed it before offering it to soldiers.

He was unapologetic, saying that the letter “perfectly reflects what each of these brave soldiers has and continues to accomplish on the ground.”

Caraccilo, who graduated from West Point in 1984, has been in the military nearly 20 years. He married his high school sweetheart, Karen Gleason, formerly of Waterloo, and they have three children.

Stationed out of Vicenza, Italy, Caraccilo is a battalion commander of the 173rd Airborne Division, known as “The Rock.”

Prior to his current deployment, Dominic Caraccilo served with the 82nd Airborne in Desert Storm and was awarded the Bronze Star. He was a member of the Army Rangers (special operations) when he served in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. He has also published three military books in the past several years, including a diary of his time in Desert Storm.

Dominic Caraccilo is the son of Bob and Mary Caraccilo of Clinton Street.

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