America Supports You: Wristbands Bind Troops With Families, Supporters
By John Valceanu
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2005 Troops on the front lines of the war on terror are wearing them. Family members of deployed servicemembers are wearing them too. And so are regular American citizens who want to show support for their troops. "Defending Freedom" bands are adorning the wrists of servicemembers on the front lines and their supporters on the home front.
The desert camouflage-colored, rubber wristbands are being distributed by the Nevada Benefits Foundation through the organization's Defending Freedom Web site. They have proved to be a big hit with deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving America, and with their families back home.
"We've gotten orders for them from all over. Troops think they're cool, and they want to wear them. Then their spouses and kids feel connected to them because they're wearing the wristbands," said Phil Randazzo, founder of the Nevada Benefits Foundation. "People are finding out about them through word of mouth, and word is getting out."
The bands come in two varieties. One type, which have only "Defending Freedom" engraved on them, are sent free of charge to servicemembers deployed in the war on terror. The other variety, which says "Pray for Our Troops" in addition to "Defending Freedom," is available to family members and interested citizens for a donation of $3. Proceeds from donations for the wristbands received by the foundation, which also sells "Support Our Troops" T-shirts and magnets, are distributed to Armed Forces Relief Trust. The trust distributes the funds to the four military aid societies: the Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
"We've shipped more than 10,000 to servicemembers, and we'll get more out when we get another batch from our supplier," Randazzo said, adding that he would like to be able to provide wristbands to all deployed people who want them.
Randazzo said his foundation has ordered the manufacture of 250,000 of the wristbands to be given to the troops, and 50,000 for families and supportive citizens. A grassroots organization of military supporters has begun organizing a distribution network. For example, an Air Force C-130 pilot scheduled to fly to Ramstein Air Base in Germany has volunteered to bring several thousand bands for distribution to wounded troops receiving treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, also in Germany.
In addition to the bands sent to the troops, thousands were sent to family members and citizens who ordered them, Randazzo said. So far, the Nevada Benefits Foundation has given $20,000 to the Armed Forces Relief Trust, and the foundation is preparing to provide another $10,800 donation, according to Randazzo.
In addition to passing funds to the military aid societies, Randazzo said the Nevada Benefits Foundation is directly helping the families of deployed servicemembers in the Las Vegas area, where the foundation is based.
"We identify families of deployed service members who are experiencing hardships because of the deployment and provide them with gas cards and grocery coupons," Randazzo said. "We just want to help the troops and their families who are doing so much for us. Sometimes other events, like the tsunami in Asia, get a monopoly on media coverage, but we shouldn't forget that our troops are still out there fighting for us and putting their lives on the line every day. I think the wristbands help remind people about what the troops are going through for us."