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Supporting Deployed Troops Has Never Been Easier

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 – One often-repeated question from forward-deployed troops today is some form of: "Does America support what we're doing over here?"

Judging by the number of Web sites devoted to that support, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

But as times have changed, so have the ways to support the troops. Just because the old way no more "Any Servicemember" mail - doesn't work anymore, that doesn't mean that troops can't receive mail and care packages from patriotic souls. It simply means finding an organization to help you get that morale- boosting mail to the troops.

Dozens of independent organizations are ready and willing to help those who want to support the troops. They generally fall into two basic categories. The first is the organizations that collect cash or goods to create care packages to be sent to troops who wish to receive them.

One such organization is Freedom Calls Foundation, which uses state-of-the-art communications technology to keep servicemembers connected with their families. Because of Freedom Calls' efforts, servicemembers have "been there" for milestone events such as weddings (sometimes their own), births and graduations.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars offers a program called "Operation Uplink" that connects servicemembers with family and friends. The program, begun in 1996, provides pre-paid phone cards to active-duty servicemembers and hospitalized veterans.

Again, Operation Uplink accepts cash donations that are used to purchase the pre-paid phone cards. Donations can be made online, via phone or through the mail.

Another supporter of deployed U.S. troops, the United Service Organizations, has a program called "Operation USO Care Package." The program lets well- wishers sponsor a care package for a monetary donation. USO makes the donation part easy too. All it takes is a mouse click, a phone call or a stamp to mail a check.

The second-type organization pairs supporters with servicemembers who have given permission to release their contact information to an individual. Most of the sites offering servicemember "adoptions" require a minimum commitment of one piece of mail a month.

AdoptaPlatoon, not only provides the means to "adopt" an individual servicemember, but an entire platoon. The requirements for each adoption are a little different. Supporters can also ask to be matched with a servicemember as a pen pal.

Operation Military Pride is another group that focuses on care packages. However, to obtain mailing information for a servicemember, supporters are required to sign up through the site. Like many organizations, Operation Military Pride has several different campaigns in the works to support deployed troops.

There also are a smaller number of Web sites dedicated to allowing a supporter to send an electronic greeting to servicemembers and some that have compiled a list of links to various support Websites.

Care packages are always nice, but letters are just as good. And sites like Operation Dear Abby and Letters From Home make that very easy to do. Operation Dear Abby provides the means to send an electronic greeting to a servicemember and Letters From Home works with the old-fashioned variety.

If the legitimacy of a site is a concern, check out the list on the Defend America Web site. While the Department of Defense does not endorse organizations, a DoD official said that the groups listed on Defend America are checked routinely to make sure they are doing what they say they are.

It's also important to remember that some Web sites are easier to use than others. So don't get discouraged, the links are there. It may just take a little looking to find them.

These are just a small sampling of organizations that offer Americans the means to remember and appreciate our troops. There are many, many groups offering many, many ways to show deployed troops that yes, America Supports You!

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Related Sites:
Defend America
Defend America: Support Our Troops
Freedom Call Foundation
United Service Organizations
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Operation Military Pride
Operation Dear Abby
Letters From Home
American Legion

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