Topeka — Holiday mailings from the Statehouse were a little heavier this season because of a letter of appreciation from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to members of the Kansas National Guard.
The governor sent 2,500 copies of the letter Tuesday to families of soldiers and airmen deployed overseas, thanking them for the sacrifices made during deployments.
"Having your loved one serving our country thousands of miles away from home cannot be easy for your - or them," the governor wrote. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the mailing Wednesday.
More than 1,200 Kansas Air and Army National Guard members are deployed overseas. Over the weekend, about 800 members of the 891st Engineer Battalion based in Iola returned from a year in Iraq. The number of soldiers deployed was as high as 2,500 and is expected to approach that level again in 2006.
Sebelius' gesture is the first of its kind toward the Kansas National Guard that guard soldiers can remember in at least a quarter century, spokeswoman Joy Moser said.
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard, said he appreciated the state's commander in chief taking the interest in soldiers and their families through the letter, attending deployment ceremonies and overseas travel.
Bunting said at one point in November, Kansans were deployed to every continent except Australia and the North and South poles.
The governor made a Thanksgiving visit to Kansas National Guard soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Even though overseas travel to areas where Kansas Guard men and women are deployed is strictly controlled, she took this opportunity to see those she could and to bring messages of thanks and love personally, and by her letter, from those deployed overseas back to their families," Bunting said.
During the trip, Sebelius served meals to soldiers and gathered a notebook full of messages from soldiers to their families back home. Sebelius said she was calling as many people in the book as possible.
"And that's why I'm writing to you. I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss anyone," the governor wrote in this week's letter. "Even though I could not talk to every Kansan serving abroad, I know their message to you is this, 'I love you, I miss you, I'm doing fine and I promise I'll be home soon."'
Before she departed with a delegation including Govs. Jennifer Granholm, of Michigan; Haley Barbour, of Mississippi, and Sonny Purdue of Georgia, Sebelius spotted a group of soldiers behind a barricade with a light and a flag.
"This proud band of brothers was shining a flashlight on their Kansas flag so that I could see through the darkness. I will never forget them," she wrote.