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USO Gives Service Member Care Package Program Global Reach

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2002 – The Operation USO Care Package program for service members deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom is being expanded globally, said Elaine Rogers, president of United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington.

USO-Metro has distributed 1,000 care packages monthly to armed forces members to boost morale since last December, Rogers explained. That successful program, she noted, also included messages of support and was sponsored by community businesses and other local organizations.

The USO care package program, Rogers noted, replaced the "To Any Service Member" letter program, which was suspended due to the anthrax mail threat.

Now, Rogers said, the USO wants to expand the care package program to support even more service members. The new program kicks off Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. at a special ceremony at Baltimore-Washington International Airport's International Pier, second floor.

"We wanted to give more Americans the opportunity to say 'Thank You' to our armed forces that are putting their lives on the line in the war against global terrorism," she pointed out.

The expanded program will work in tandem with the USO at BWI, she said, noting that many troops deployed overseas in support of war operations pass through that airport.

"We have a lot of flights going to the Enduring Freedom area," she added, noting that the military's Air Mobility Command at the airport is a partner in the program.

All service members on their way to the war zone from BWI will be given care packages, Rogers noted.

USO-Metro has also "joined with our world organization to expand this worldwide in the distribution of care packages," she added.

Rogers said information on how citizens can send a message of support and sponsor a care package is available at www.usometrodc.org/contents.html or by calling 1-866-USO-GIVE.

"We will take your message to the troops," Rogers said, noting that each care package includes an AT&T international calling card with 100 free minutes.

Military members serving overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom have told the USO they'd appreciate items like paperback books, various toiletries, candy, suntan lotion and snacks, Rogers noted.

"Many of those type of items will be included in the care packages," she said.

The USO, Rogers noted, also provides care packages to service members in hospitals who are recuperating from battle wounds. Care packages have also been given to troops deploying overseas from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Polk, La., she added.

"Now, we're going to expand the program and work with other USOs in the distribution of the care packages," she concluded.

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