Clara Arth is not in the military, but she definitely has connections. Her father, her uncle, her brother, one of her cousins and many of her friends are in the Armed Forces, and they all have been, are currently or will soon serve in the war in Iraq.
Arth's father, Ted Shady, is in his second tour of duty. Last year he didn't know how to use a computer, Arth said.
They wrote letters to each other, but now he sends her e-mails and uses Yahoo Instant Messenger.
"I keep in contact with him almost every day," she said. "I know he's okay."
They can talk on the phone once every three or four months. Shady does have a cell phone, but it is expensive to call the U.S.
Arth works at Robin Cox's law office, but her mind is never far from her dad.
"It runs through my mind every second of the day that he's over there," she said. "It scares me a lot."
Arth's great-grandmother died recently, on Veterans Day, and there were many servicemen at her funeral. They were telling their stories, and Arth was inspired.
"I was just awestruck by everything they were saying," she said. "Some of it was uplifting, other things were really scary."
Although she has done similar things before, Arth decided to throw herself into showing the troops how much they are appreciated. Her son attends kindergarten in Gilliam, and she arranged for his class to make cards and send "goodies" to the troops for the holidays.
"It's uncanny how a little piece of paper can lift someone up," she said.
This will be the second Christmas Shady has been away from home.
Arth knows how hard it is for him to be gone, and how hard it is on her family.
But, knowing that people back home care helps them get through it.
"My dad has so many pen pals it's not even funny," she said. A whole classroom in Michigan corresponds with her father, and last year he was part of a radio station's Adopt-a-Soldier program. He got a package from someone in mid-Missouri but didn't even keep it for himself.
"He ended up taking it to the guys on the front lines," Arth said. He told her "it was like sitting around a Christmas tree at home watching everybody open gifts."
Arth is hopeful that this holiday season Marshall-area residents will reach out to their troops.
She urges people to do what they can to help, even if it seems like a little thing.
"People can be so kind even though the world isn't," she said. "I hope Saline County reaches out because our troops need them, especially around this time of year. It really is hard for them and their families."