Brian Braiker
January 11, 2010 12:00 PM

Robin Schmidt, 47

Covington, Ky.

After the safety instructions but before the drinks and snacks, flight attendant Robin Schmidt makes another offer to passengers on her routes: Who would like to write to a soldier overseas?

Inspired by a colleague who would send journals to her deployed husband, Schmidt, who is single, started dedicating journals to individual soldiers she hadn’t met but had read about—usually on the Web site adoptahero.us—in 2005. With the approval of her employer, Delta, Schmidt brings two blank books on each flight and invariably, she says, “people pass them around.” They come back filled with notes of thanks, poems, prayers and doodles: “You are the man!!!” Tom from Portland, Ore., writes to Spc. Chris Hanke in Afghanistan. “Though we don’t know you personally, we are very proud of you.” A retired Marine adds: “What you are doing matters!”

In five years, Schmidt has sent hundreds of books to appreciative soldiers. “The warmth of spirit of the people who write is genuine,” says Sgt. Ed Reese, 37, who was serving in Afghanistan when his journal arrived. “The connection to strangers goes beyond words—it makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile.” Schmidt hopes that others will follow her lead in writing to soldiers. “A postcard can make as much of a difference as a package can,” she says, “and costs nothing.”

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