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Congregants who wrote to Naval crew learn about

April 15, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Gibby Sorrell got a family's welcome Saturday afternoon from people he had never before met.

Naval Chief Petty Officer Sorrell and his wife, Cathy, drove from Norfolk, Va., to the Manor Church Road home of Inky Eckstine, a pen pal he communicated with while he was overseas in the war against terrorism.

He was greeted with hugs, fried chicken and cake.

Sorrell met Eckstine, e-mail pal Nancy Wallech and a few other members of their church, St. Andrew's United Methodist Church on Maryland Avenue.

"The letter writing for me, because it was a Christian background, helped me keep my faith and just let me know there were people back in the states rooting for us," said Sorrell, 40, of Norfolk, Va.

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Church members corresponded with Sorrell and other crew members aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt following Sept. 11's terrorist attacks.

The Roosevelt and its approximately 5,500 crew members arrived at Norfolk on March 27 after shipping out Sept. 19 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sorrell said he exchanged stories with his pen pals about their lives, families and Christian backgrounds.

While at sea, Sorrell sent his pen pals pictures of his family, the Roosevelt, the crew's New Year's Eve party and planes making bombing runs.

"Only people that lived during World War II would understand this is amazing," said Wallech, 69, of Leitersburg Pike. "During World War II they didn't let anybody send that stuff. It was all censored."

Other pen pal crew members couldn't make the trip because they were still on duty on the Roosevelt or visiting family, Sorrell said.

Wallech said she hopes to meet pen pal Nayomie Richards at Sorrell's retirement party in Virginia later this month.

Eckstine tried to persuade Sorrell to move to Washington County.

"You have a church. You have friends. We have a job for your wife," said Eckstine, 62.

Whether or not Sorrell decides to move here, he said he will continue writing to his pen pals.

He was scheduled to speak about his experiences during morning church services today and his wife was to sing a solo.

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