"To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart."
The quote is by Phyllis Theroux, American essayist, columnist, teacher and author.
Beall has written letters to men and women in the Armed Forces for 20 years. She sits at her dining room table and writes letters by hand. Every single day.
"I write seven days a week because the soldiers don't get a day off," said Beall, 46. "If I go somewhere, I always take my letter-writing things with me."
The number of men and women she calls "friends" is staggering. At one point last fall, she wrote to 310 military personnel on a regular basis. That number dropped to 208 after many soldiers left Iraq.
In December, she sent out 83 letters, all written in blue ink on light-blue, lined paper.
But this is not a one-way paper pipeline. Most soldiers write back. Sometimes, she'll hear from a soldier once or twice. With others, the correspondence goes on for years.
"I make sure I answer every letter within a week," she said. "Every one of their letters to me says the same thing. They always tell me how much it means to them. They thank me for taking time to write, but I'm the one who's thanking them for what they do for our country."
She gives each person individual attention. One soldier in Iraq mentioned that he missed fall foliage, so Beall's husband, Bob, drove around North County and took pictures of trees with orange and red leaves that she included in her next letter.
She began her unique hobby in 1992 by sending Christmas cards to 60 soldiers. She slowly built up a list of correspondents, getting names and addresses from AnySoldier.com. Since 2007, she has received contact information from Soldiers' Angels, a nonprofit group.
Over the years, she's written to hundreds of men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines. She keeps every letter she's received in plastic bins, cataloged by year. Soldiers send her pictures that fill a photo album. Some sent currency from Afghanistan and Qatar. One even mailed a T-shirt from Operation Enduring Freedom.
Her husband is going to make a shadow box so she can display the keepsakes for visitors to see. The box will sit under three framed certificates on her dining room wall. George Casey, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, signed two "Freedom Team Salutes." The other is from Soldiers' Angels.
She gets new names each week, including "extra care" names of those who haven't received mail for months.
"I've had some extra care people tell me how hard it was for them to go to mail call every day and never have their name called," she said. "They were so thankful to hear from me, a stranger. It makes me cry."
Her letters are filled with everyday details of her life with Bob, a Baltimore County school bus driver. She writes about the weather, describes the Hereford Zone, gives details about their two dogs, four cats, two horses and rabbit, and analyzes the previous Sunday's football games.
"I felt like I planted her garden with her," said Jason Hardman, 32, who has corresponded with Beall since he was in Afghanistan in 2009. He is now stationed in Alaska with the Air Force. "She'd talk about troubles she was having with her garden and I'd give her some advice. Her letters were like clockwork. I'd get one every two weeks. We've never met, but she's a friend for life."
Beall has met a few soldiers, including Joe Crews, a correspondent since 2007 when he was stationed in Iraq.
After returning from Iraq, Crews was in Baltimore on business and drove out to Monkton.
"I felt like I already knew her. When I got to their house, we sat at that table where she writes her letters and just talked for hours. Getting a letter made you feel special," said Crews, now retired and living in North Carolina. "Her letters were filled with love, hope and family. She cried when I told her a letter from a stranger is like unconditional love."
But not everyone makes it home. Nine of her correspondents have died since 1992.
"I got a phone call from a boy's grandmother who told me he had been killed by an IED in Afghanistan," Beall said. "We wrote to each other for three years and she said he had kept all my letters. That's how she found me. She wanted me to know what happened."
Beall pays for her stamps, envelopes and writing paper. She even sends out Christmas cards and birthday cards, too.
"Pam doesn't even tell people she does this," said Susan McMillion, of White Hall, a school bus driver who works with Bob Beall. "My husband was in the Navy, and he always said how important it was to get letters. She really does this from the heart. I can't thank her enough. She is a true blessing."
Anyone interested in learning more about writing to military personnel can go to http://www.soldiersangels.org.
.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun