DEEP RUN — Mail is more than just how Donna Jones earns a living.
Mail is how she lets son Stephen, 25, know he's loved and missed while he serves in Saudi Arabia as an Army paratrooper and communications specialist.
And mail -- an unmailable letter, actually -- put her on the path of forming a support group for families and friends of U.S. troops in the Middle East.
Donna and Roosevelt Jones live with their otherson, Dana, 23, and niece Marcia Wells, 13, on Lake Drive, just northof here. Their daughter, Janice, 30, lives in Washington.
They are a self-described military family. Roosevelt is a retired Air Force sergeant now working as a systems analyst for U.S. Sprint. Dana was discharged a year ago from the Army, but remains on inactive reserve.
Donna works out of the Westminster Post Office, delivering a ruralroute between the city and New Windsor.
Last August, when Stephenwas among the first soldiers sent to Saudi Arabia, she noticed that people on her route were sending mail to loved ones there.
One day, she had to return a letter to a woman who had not put enough information in the address for it to get to her son.
Instead of leaving the returned letter in the woman's box, she knocked on the door.
"I was telling her how when I wrote to my son, I put his squadron on the address," Donna said.
The two began talking and exchanged phonenumbers. They read each other their sons' letters, making it feel like they were receiving twice as much contact with them.
"Whenever she got a letter (from her son), I would toot the horn to let her know, and she would come out," Donna said.
"We decided maybe there would be somebody else around that might benefit from a support group," Donna said.
The group met for the first time Jan. 5, and now meets at 3 p.m. Saturdays at Kessler Shoe Manufacturing Co., 191 Shaeffer Ave., in Westminster.
"We're not a bunch of crying women," Donnasaid.
The meetings, which draw about 20 families at a time, usually have a guest speaker on military matters or how to handle stress. On one occasion, they sampled MREs, the Meals Ready to Eat, or C rations of today. At the end of the meeting, people talk informally.
"Of course, some people do cry, and that's to be expected," she said.
Although she may appear a pillar of strength, Donna has cried a few times at home, she said.
"No matter how old a child is, the mother still thinks of him as a child," she said.
But two years ago when Stephen was best man at a friend's wedding, she looked at him in his tuxedo and turned to her husband and said, "You know, he's a man."
Whenever Donna runs into Stephen's friends, they often ask how heis and for his address. She reaches into her purse, and peels a sheet from a small tablet.
"Here, now you have it," she says to them.
She prepared a whole tablet with his address on every sheet.
"Idon't want him to be the only one who doesn't get mail," she said.
Between letters, Donna sends him cards or newspaper clippings aboutfriends getting married or receiving honors.
"You can run out of things to say when you write every day," she said.