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Family to sell Obama letter promising to make troops 'priority'

Courtesy momentsintime.com

Cynthia Arnold is selling a note she received from President Obama. The proceeds will be used to buy her son, a veteran, and his family a new car.

In January 2009, Cynthia Arnold made an emotional decision to write President Obama a heartfelt letter, imploring him to "please make our troops one of your priorities."

She wrote the letter after receiving a call from her son, Matthew, a soldier who had just arrived at Fort Hood in Texas and needed to know who might make funeral arrangements if he died serving. 

"I never dreamed I'd have that conversation," Arnold told NBC News. She knew then what she needed to ask of the president.

"I beg you to spare other Mothers from taking a call such as mine from their sons and daughters. Use the power that has been given to you to bring our troops home as quickly and safely as possible," the letter read.

A few weeks later, Arnold said, a response arrived from the White House. A small note card was tucked inside two pieces of cardboard. Handwritten by the president, it read: "I will do everything in my power to make troops like Matthew my priority."

Arnold treasured the letter, but is selling it now to help her son transition to civilian life. After more than five years in the Army, Matthew has left the service as a specialist with experience in chemical operations and small arms maintenance. He never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The job he was trained to do in the Army is not particularly a job he’s going to be able to bank on in the States," Arnold said.

To help Matthew, his fiancée and their 1-year-old daughter gain their footing, Arnold and her husband are selling the letter for $8,500. The sum, minus a 25 percent commission, will go toward buying Matthew and his family a car.

Gary Zimet, curator of MomentsinTime.com, the website through which the letter is being sold, told NBC News that the note card is valuable because the president rarely personally signs letters. Unless it is being sent to the family members of someone killed in action, the president uses an autopen for his signature.

Zimet has sold 10 notes signed by the president, which have fetched between $5,000 and $15,000. Most of the president's responses, Zimet said, are to Americans experiencing severe hardship.

"If I had to sum up the content of these letters in one line, it would be 'Keep your spirits up,' " Zimet said.

Matthew Arnold told NBC News that he is not worried about the transition to civilian life and the tough job market. He plans to take classes on working with firearms to earn a certification and then hopes to apprentice at a gun shop. "Regardless, I’ll survive no matter what," he said.

Cynthia Arnold never thought she'd part with the letter so soon, but when it became clear that it could help her son, there was no question about doing it.

"We want to help a young family get started," she said.

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