WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army says it has formally apologized for sending thousands of "Dear John Doe" letters to relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 7,000 letters, which went out in December, were meant to provide the families information about services or gifts for which they might be eligible. However, each letter started out with the salutation "Dear John Doe," the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
The Army blamed the impersonal touch on a software problem. The letters were printed by a private contractor.
Army spokesman J. Paul Boyce said several families called about the error, leading to an investigation and the subsequent apology.
"There are no words to adequately apologize for this mistake or for the hurt it may have caused," Brig. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, the Army's adjutant general, said in a statement.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, is mailing the families another letter explaining the error.
Some recipients found the original letter's salutation odd but not upsetting.
Bonnie Brown of Troy, Ala., whose son John E. Brown was killed in Iraq on April 14, 2003, said it "didn't really bother" her.
Joe Davis of the Veterans of Foreign Wars called it an "unfortunate mistake," though he lauded the Army's communication efforts.
"It is embarrassing," he said. "But it's very good that they are trying to reach out to families to say the Army is there to support you."