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Companies Provide Goods, Services to Brighten Troops' Days

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2001 – Corporate America is stepping up to make the holidays a little brighter for U.S. troops overseas and at home.

Several U.S. corporations have used their particular specialties to make life easier for their country's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. To make sure donated items meet DoD needs, the department has set up a working group to help companies make donations.

Representatives from each service, the Joint Staff, the Defense Logistics Agency, and several other organizations make up the working group, explained John Molino, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

Molino said DoD doesn't solicit donations and specifically asks corporations, groups and individuals not to donate cash or to send checks to the Defense Department. Money sent straight to DoD goes into a general fund, which is further appropriated by Congress, he said.

"There are no guarantees where that money will go," he said. "It will not go to the families of the (Sept. 11) victims or anything like that."

He said DoD encourages people to make their donations to the USO, the American Red Cross, Army Emergency Relief, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, or the Armed Services YMCA. A few of the major corporations who have made donations through Molino's working group include:

  • Coca-Cola has offered to donate Coke products to American forces serving overseas.

  • Sony is providing goods and services on several fronts. The company is working with Circuit City stores around the country to set up kiosks where individuals can record messages to U.S. service members. The messages are being given to CBS and the American Forces Radio and Television Service to edit and broadcast as public service announcements, Molino said.
Sony is also working with military exchange services to allow military family members to record longer, personal greetings to their loved ones who are serving overseas. The messages are being pressed on digital videodisks and given to the families to send to their loved ones.

Finally, Sony is working with the services to provide DVD and video players and television sets to remote locations so troops can see all the messages being recorded.

  • Compaq has also launched an effort to record digital messages and have them sent to service members overseas.

  • Amazon.com has an offer on their Web site for people to buy a $20 gift certificate that will be distributed to service members to be used at any Amazon.com shopping site. Amazon has pledged to donate the proceeds from the sale of any gift certificate not used within a year.
Not all prospective donations are appropriate, though. Molino explained the working group consults with the theater commander before sending any donated items.

"We want to make sure he is comfortable with that product arriving in theater so that we don't send things that are objectionable in that theater or that would clog up the supply system," Molino said. "The primary concern is to determine that whatever we want to send does not get in the way of the military mission, which has to have priority."

One charitable organization wanted to send mittens and scarves to service members fighting the war on terrorism. Molino said that wouldn't have been appropriate because the military services clothe their own members.

"As much as we appreciate the spirit of that gesture, we recommended that those goods be distributed to homeless shelters," Molino said.

Molino said he believes the donations say a lot about the character of the American people.

"The most valuable thing that can be sent to the troops no matter where they are serving is (the knowledge) that the American people are supporting them," Molino said.

"Whether that support is in the form of a gift certificate or an electronic message, I don't think that that particularly matters," he remarked. "If (a service member) is handed a can of Coca-Cola and told that this represents the support of the American people, I think that will encourage them and give them a boost during the holiday period."

Organizations wishing to make donations to service members can send proposals to Molino at: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense,(Military Community & Family Policy), OASD (FMP), Attention: Contributions Committee, 4000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20301-4000.

Monetary donations can be sent to:

  • Armed Services YMCA of the USA
    6225 Brandon Ave., Suite 215
    Springfield, Va. 22150-2510
    Phone: (703) 866-1260
    Fax: (703) 866-9215
    Toll Free: 1-800-597-1260
    Web Site: http://www.asymca.org.

  • The Army Emergency Relief Society
    Alexandria, Va.
    Contact: Col. Greg Mason at (703) 325-0463
    Web site: http://www.aerhq.org.

  • The Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society
    Arlington, Va.
    Contact: John Alexander at (703) 696-4904
    Web site: http://www.nmcrs.org.

  • The Air Force Aid Society
    1745 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 202
    Arlington, Va. 22202
    Contact: (703) 607-3134
    Web site: http://www.asaf.org.

  • United Services Organizations (USO)
    1008 Eberle Place, SE, Suite 301
    Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5096
    Toll-free contact: 1-800 876-7496
    Web site: http://www.uso.org.
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Sgt. Maurice L. Bease, 24, of Baltimore voices a general message to his old unit at a Compaq recording stand set up in the Pentagon. Bease, now assigned to aviation operations at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington wished the Marine Fighter Attack All Weather Squadron at San Diego well Dec. 6 and said he's confident that they'll handle their mission in Afghanistan. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCo-workers of Army Reserve Col.. Bob Schroeder in the Army's environmental office, assistant chief of staff for installations management, gathered at a Compaq recording stand set up in the Pentagon to sing "Jingle Bells" to him and wish him a Merry Christmas. Schroeder has been called to active duty and is expected to go to Afghanistan as a civil affairs officer. From right to left in the front row are Army Lt. Col. David D. Jones, Sharon Bucci and Kurt Preston. In the back row are Doug Warnock (right) and Eric Haukdal. Compaq Computer Corp. has set up facilities around the country to record free holiday and support messages for deployed troops. Compaq's Jim Phillips operates the camera and computer equipment. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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