WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- For as long as there has been an army, Soldiers have found innovative ways to stay connected back to the home front. After all, the letters, lockets, post cards, and photos have helped Soldiers endure the harsh realities of war, as well as the tyranny of distance from what was important to them.

During the American Civil War, Soldiers hungered for letters from home.

According to the National Postal Museum, Newton Scott, a private in the Iowa Volunteers, commented to his childhood companion in January 1864 about his Christmas, "No roasted turkey for dinner and no visitors to see us, but we stay at our camps thinking of home and of old times, and hoping for happier days to come."

Thinking of "home and old times" would continue to resonate with Soldiers well into the 20th Century.

During World War II, letters quickly became the most important means of communication between families at home and their loved ones serving overseas. So many letters were written, in fact, that the military postal system began to have a problem. As important as regular mail was to the morale of American troops, military supply ships were often swamped with bags and bags of letters needing to be delivered, said Kathryn Burke, National Postal Museum.

In addition to letters during World War II, the rise of posters was also essential to not only promoting propaganda that would rally America, but also as a tool for Soldiers to remain connected with the home front.

According to website Toptenz.net, the number one World War II poster for U.S. troops were of pinup girls.

World War II was the golden age of pinup posters. Many of these posters depicted women in a variety of challenging wardrobe positions and troops widely displayed these posters in their barracks, wall lockers, and on their military equipment. More than 5 million posters of Betty Grable, a Twentieth Century Fox movie star at the time, were distributed to the troops as a way to raise morale and to maintain connection with the home front.

But maintaining threads of good times and family is not unique to just the American Soldier.

At a small Army post in upstate New York, machinists and office workers today also adorn their work areas, as Soldiers often have, with items that help them stay connected to the world outside of the U.S. Army's Watervliet Arsenal fence line.

Wayne Pelletier, an Arsenal machinist, said he has his whole life adorning his work station.

"I have three daughters, ages 4, 8, and 10, who mean the world to me," Pelletier said. "By putting their pictures and the drawings they have made for me on my workstation I am able to be reminded throughout the day of what is truly important to me."

John Chuley, an Arsenal machinist who previously served in the Air Force, said he decorated his workstation with items that help him think of things that take up his off-duty time, when he has it.

"I have worked so much these last three years that I haven't been able to follow sports," Chuley said. "I really miss following my teams, and by posting my team decals on my workstation I am able to be reminded of things that I truly enjoy when I am away from the Arsenal."

One of the newer Arsenal machinists, but one who has about 30 years of machining experience, Marlon Charlton said his workstation reflects some of the most prideful moments of his life.

Several Marine Corps posters were proudly displayed within a few feet of where Charlton was doing machine work on a 60mm mortar base cap. This kind of makes sense given Charlton's 10-year service in the Marine Corps as a machinist.

Not to be outdone by the machinists, several of the Arsenal office workers have similar feelings when it comes to decorating their work areas.

Jennifer Walkley, a management analyst, said that although she usually has cards displayed for such occasions as Mothers Day. Her work area is now focused on new events in her life that are truly exciting. She was recently married and is now expecting her first child from that marriage.

"I find that by having photos of my marriage and of my baby's ultrasound on my desk, I can look at those images throughout the day to make me feel good and to get me excited about my baby," Walkley said.

Although Ken Church was found at his desk, he is rarely there because he runs the Arsenal's Voluntary Protection Program. Nevertheless, even Church found time to decorate his work area.

In Church's cubicle, photos of his kids and four grandchildren adorn his desk and walls. But when one takes a deeper look into his cubicle, there is a small pillow with "Adirondack" embroidered on it. It seemed a little strange that this hardened combat Veteran would have something as soft as a pillow displayed, but it was because of his combat experience that the pillow was there.

"When I deployed to Iraq, you couldn't carry much with you into combat," Church said. "But I always found room for this little pillow that reminded me of home and it stayed with me my entire tour in Iraq."

Two hundred years from now, Soldiers will probably still carry items with them into combat that remind them of home. Given that the Arsenal workforce has been doing the same thing since its establishment in 1813, there is no reason not to believe that the next eight generations of workers will not follow in that tradition, too.

The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high tech, high powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.

Page last updated Thu January 24th, 2013 at 10:25