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Travelers May Donate Frequent-flier Miles to Troops on R&R Leave

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2003 – Travelers can donate frequent- flier miles to help troops on leave from Iraq reach their destinations through Operation Hero Miles.

Service members participating in the two-week "rest and recuperation" leave program are flown free to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, or Baltimore-Washington International Airport by the Defense Department, but must pay for connecting flights from and back to those ports. The Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth airports are scheduled to be added to the program Nov. 1, said Rhonda Paige, chief of strategic communications, G-1, Army Well-Being Division.

More than 200 soldiers arrive at BWI daily as part of the R&R program, said Lt. Col. Robert Hagen, Army spokesman.

"I think Operation Hero Miles is a fantastic program," said Hagen, who has been the on-site public affairs officer at BWI since the R&R program began Sept. 26. He said he's even donated his miles to the cause.

Launched by Maryland Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, whose district includes the Baltimore airport, the Hero Miles Web site lists participating airlines and provides information on how to donate frequent-flier miles and how soldiers can receive complimentary tickets.

Delta, Southwest and Alaska Airlines/Horizon Airlines have joined the operation.

"I am getting a phenomenal response to Operation Hero Miles," said the congressman in a press release. "So many Americans want to donate their frequent flier miles to help our men and women in uniform in Iraq so they can spend quality time with their family and friends here at home. I am confident that other airlines will want to join this effort to help our soldiers risking their lives for our country."

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