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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: I'm delighted to tell you about a special book that's hot off the presses this month titled "War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence From American Wars" (Scribner). It features never-before-seen letters from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and even Bosnia. It is edited by a dedicated young man named Andy Carroll.

What makes this book so special is that YOU helped to write it.

Several years ago I told you about Andy's all-volunteer organization, the Legacy Project, that honors and remembers America's veterans by preserving their war letters. I encouraged you to look through your closets, attics and basements for old war correspondence and to send photocopies of anything historic, impassioned or dramatic to Andy's attention.

The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of remarkable letters were received, and 200 of them are being published, all for the first time, in "War Letters." I am struck by the power and eloquence of the letters you contributed. Many are inspiring, some are heartbreaking, all of them are unforgettable.

These letters celebrate our greatest American values -- honor, faith, courage and perseverance. They remind us that wars are won not by generals and presidents, but by the individual soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard and nurses whose voices are so often forgotten. They are our true heroes. "War Letters" lets their voices be heard.

All earnings from this book are being donated to veterans groups, and Andy has established a Web site -- www.warletters.com -- that offers free information on how to safeguard your old letters, as well as links to respected organizations that preserve wartime letters, photos and journals.

Future generations of Americans need to understand and appreciate the high cost of freedom. This book is a lasting tribute to our men and women in uniform and the enormous sacrifices they have made for all of us. It is available in your local bookstore.

DEAR ABBY: I am a gentleman in my late 70s who prefers wearing athletic shoes because I find them comfortable. I wear them not only around the house, but when shopping, dining out, going to the movies, etc.

For some reason, wearing white socks with them causes my feet and ankles to itch (perhaps due to an allergy). Therefore, I wear colored socks -- black, blue, brown -- you get the picture.

My problem: My children, who are all married with kids of their own, are forever telling me I look like a "dork"! They say that colored socks should never be worn with athletic shoes. Please don't advise me to switch to leather shoes, as they are hard on my feet.

How can I make my children understand that I am not trying to be a misfit, but only trying to be comfortable in my "golden years"? -- NO SLAVE TO FASHION IN SAN MARCOS

DEAR NO SLAVE: My "fashion experts" tell me that if people can see your socks, your trousers may be too short. However, if that's not your problem, consider that athletic shoes come in a variety of color combinations, and you can always coordinate your shoes and socks to match your outfit.

P.S. Consult a podiatrist about foot powder to relieve what's itching you.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600