Marine 1st Lt. Vince Montgomery sent an e-mail to his wife, Anne, after a Cobra helicopter crashed in Iraq, killing two pilots from his Camp Pendleton squadron.

This one really hit home, he wrote.

Anne is good friends with the wife of one downed pilot. The two young mothers see each other several times a week, and their daughters — both toddlers — play together. Anne replied, telling her husband that she had been with the pilot's wife minutes after the woman learned the news.

I was glad I could be of some comfort to her. ... She's doing ok, she's still in shock. ... Everybody is still in shock though, this wasn't supposed to happen. ... Everyone was supposed to come home.

War fighters and their families half a world away are e-mailing one another from battlefields, aircraft carriers and desert encampments, an unplanned — and unprecedented — benefit of modern warfare.

Some of the missives are everyday queries. Is the lawn getting mowed? How's that new asthma medicine? Other e-mails capture regret over sharp words and a desire for reconciliation. For Anne and Vince, their missives are chronicles of a relationship deepening with the trials of war.

"I've fallen in love with him all over again," said Anne, 25. "You take everything for granted. Why didn't we hold each other a little longer?"

Anne, who works part-time as a geography teacher at San Clemente High School, checks for e-mails at least six times a day. "We hadn't expected e-mail — it's been such a blessing."

Vince, 26, began e-mailing his wife in January, shortly after he shipped out aboard the amphibious warship Cleveland.

I think I have an inner ear infection because my balance is all off. Oh wait, I'm on a ship that has the relative stability of a drunk [college boy]. I get more of a beat down trying to take a shower than I ever did in SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] school. Imagine me balancing on a beach ball wearing Rollerblades in the shower trying to lather up — that's about the size of it!

Later he wrote:

It was fun trying to eat dinner tonight. My dish was literally trying to run away with the spoon.

In another e-mail, he typed:

I am going to start swimming home tomorrow. ... I'm getting tired of the boat. I should be there in about 227 days (I'm not a fast swimmer).

It took several weeks for the Cleveland to reach the Persian Gulf. Just before Vince got off the ship, he sent e-mail to his parents in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul. He told them not to worry, that he was doing what he loved and living every boy's dream. He told them that every little boy wanted to be G.I. Joe and that now he finally was.

Vince also wrote to Anne and their daughter Samantha. In most of his e-mails to her, he'd called her by a nickname. But this missive was different. He used her real name.

I am sorry to say that this might be the last e-mail I'm able to send, as we are getting ready to go in country soon. I will write whenever I get the chance, but if you don't hear from me for a while don't worry. ...

I'll do everything in my power to come home to you when this is all over. I know this has been tough on you, and I don't expect it to get any easier over the coming weeks and months.

I want you to know that no matter what happens I have always and will always love you. Words cannot express how much you mean to me and what joy you have brought into my life. I am forever grateful that you agreed to share your life with me. Never forget how much I love you. Give Sam a kiss and hold her tight. ... Tell her that Daddy has gone to work.