America Supports You: Rumsfeld Carries Free Phone Cards to Troops
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2005 At Camp Fallujah, Iraq, today, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld passed a box to the camp's sergeant major. The sergeant major then distributed the contents - handfuls of pre-paid calling cards -- to Marines serving there.
Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lutz, Cpl. Byron Smith and Cpl.Justin Glass hold up phone cards they had just received following a town hall meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, Dec. 23. The Wal-Mart Corporation sent more than $125,000 worth of pre-paid telephone calling cards along with the secretary. Senior noncommissioned officers have distributed them to American servicemembers all over the Middle East. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The timing on this is great," said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lutz, a mechanic with the 8th Marines. "It was going to be a short call home for Christmas, but with this it'll be a much better visit with my family."
Other Marines cheered when they saw what the sergeant major was handing out, a DoD official traveling with Rumsfeld said.
Giant retailer Wal-Mart sent 5,100 pre-paid telephone calling cards worth more than $125,000 so military members serving overseas can phone home during the holidays, said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
Each phone card is good for about an hour of talking time, Barber said, noting that Rumsfeld took the cards on his current trip to dispense to U.S. troops serving in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
"Wal-Mart has this wonderful history of finding ways to support the military," she said.
Wal-Mart provides continued benefits for its employees in the Guard and reserve who've been called up for wartime duty, Cox said. The company received the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in September 2004 for supporting its employees serving in the reserve components.
"Wal-Mart continues to be creative and forward-leaning in trying to explore ways to support our military members and their families back home," Barber said. "And, they're doing that in partnership with the 'America Supports You' program."
Wal-Mart is one of more than 20 corporate and 175 grassroots organization members of DoD's "America Supports You" program. The corporate partners and grassroots groups develop ways to support and thank servicemembers and their families.
Wal-Mart representative Kathy Cox said she called Barber earlier this month and asked what types of items deployed servicemembers would find useful during the holiday season. The consensus, Cox said, was that phone cards would be an appreciated gift.
"When we found out there was a need for phone cards, we addressed that unmet need," said Cox, the community program development manager for the Wal-Mart foundation.
"We place a high importance on that connection back to the family," she said. We know, especially during the holidays, how critical that is."
Cox said the phone cards were obtained through Wal-Mart's Sam's Club subsidiary and were shipped in time to be taken along by the defense secretary on his trip.
Wal-Mart has also re-launched its electronic troop messaging centers available at its stores and supercenters. This program, she said, enables customers to pick out messages of support and e-mail them to servicemembers.
It's vitally important to support U.S. military members who are deployed in harm's way to defend America, Cox said.
"They're risking their lives for our freedom," she said. "And, those are our associates, they're our neighbors. They are the sons, daughters, family members of the communities that we serve.
"It is in our hearts to support our military men and women," she said. "As a company, that is a value that we hold dear."
(Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report from Camp Fallujah, Iraq.)