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Holiday Support for the Troops
Holiday Support for the Troops


This article is provided courtesy of DefenseWatch, the official magazine for Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT), a grass-roots educational organization started by a small group of concerned veterans and citizens to inform the public, the Congress, and the media on the decline in readiness of our armed forces. Inspired by the outspoken idealism of retired Colonel David Hackworth, SFTT aims to give our service people, veterans, and retirees a clear voice with the media, Congress, the public and their services.

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November 8, 2004
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The Defense Department last week announced suggested mailing deadlines for the 2004 holiday season to ensure that gift packages to the troops overseas arrive in time for the Christmas holiday, ranging from a Nov. 13 early deadline for parcel post mailings to a span of Dec. 6-11 for First Class mailings depending on the recipient's military zip code.

With the holiday season approaching, here are a number of new programs by which you can send gift packages and other tokens of support for our men and women serving overseas.

Sending Care Packages

Even if you do not have a loved one serving in the military today, there hundreds of thousands of American troops stationed or deployed indefinitely in remote parts of the world who would deeply appreciate tokens of support from their fellow American citizens back home. While heightened mail security in the wake of 9/11 prompted the Pentagon to restrict mailed parcels to "any service member," there are a number of active programs aimed at making it easy for contributors to provide financial donations that in turn become approved parcel shipments. They include:

Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude, a non-government 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation working in conjunction with the California Army National Guard's 746th Quartermaster Battalion, has organized a program to provide Care Packages to service members overseas. The Care Packages contain food, toiletries, necessities, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

The nonprofit administers the receipt of contributions, and for safety and security, the 746th Quartermaster Battalion assembles the packages occurs at its armory in Van Nuys, California.

Treats for Troops

Founded in early 2003, the nonprofit organization Treats for Troops is another ongoing program designed to help every American send packages and messages of support to our men and women in uniform year round. The website includes several online Gift Shops where contributors can choose from dozens of themed packages or hundreds of individual items, all selected after lots of input from soldiers and family members.

If a donor does not personally know someone serving overseas in uniform, the organization's "Foster-a-Soldier" program can provide a match by branch of service, home state, gender, or birthday with a military service person who has registered with Treats for Troops. All the donor has to do is go shopping in the Treats for Troops Gift Shops, and your care package will be on its way.

If you do know someone in the service, the Treats for Troops Gift Shops offer assembled gift packages that can be purchased online for instant mailing. They include everything from freshly baked cookies to hand and face wipes and phone cards, all carefully packed and safely shipped according to military and postal regulations.

Operation USO Care Package

The United Service Organizations, Inc. (USO) is enlisting support of individuals around the world to support the troops through Operation USO Care Package. These packages are being delivered to members of the U.S. Armed Forces deployed around the world to show them they have not been forgotten and to provide a "touch of home."

With a donation of $25, contributors can sponsor a care package and include a personal message of support and encouragement. These USO Care Packages at minimum, include requested items such as pre-paid worldwide phone cards, sunscreen, travel size toiletries, disposable camera and a message from the donor thanking them for their service and sacrifice.

For further information on Operation USO Care Package, please contact Lisa Frederick at (703) 696-3278 (lisa.frederick@fmmc.army.mil).

Operation Dear Abby

For those who would like to send a personal greeting to "any service member," the longstanding organization, Operation Dear Abby, founded by columnist Abigail Van Buren in 1967 is working in partnership with the Defense Department and corporate supporters to provide an online greeting program by which Americans can send messages of support to the troops overseas.

Helping the Wounded Here at Home

Comfort Items for the Injured

The American Red Cross at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is looking for contributions of incidentals and comfort items for sick and wounded members of the armed forces now recuperating at the hospital. When troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere are wounded or fall ill, they're immediately evacuated and eventually end up stateside. It takes weeks for their personnel effects to catch up with them.

Things that the Red Cross is asking for are:

Telephone cards of at least 30 minutes
Rolling luggage (small), totes, carry-ons
Individually wrapped snacks
Notepads and pens
Playing cards and games
Sweat pants and shirts (all sizes)

All items should be addressed to:

ATTN: Barbara Green,
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20307-5001

Checks should be made payable To: American Red Cross.

For more information, you can call (202) 782-2080 or e-mail Barbara.Green.1@AMEDD.army.mil

Support for Injured Marines and Sailors

Founded earlier this year, the nonprofit Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund provides financial grants and other resources to injured Marines, sailors, and their families. The Fund works closely with the Marine Corps and military hospitals nationwide to identify and assess the needs of specific families. Its goal is to provide immediate and real financial assistance to Marines, sailors and their families during the extraordinarily stressful time they are undergoing recuperation and therapy for their wounds. The program's goal is that by alleviating the financial stresses, the recovering servicemen and women and their families can focus on the important job of physical and emotional healing.

Relief Society Donations

Make a donation to one of the military relief societies or related civilian organizations:

Army Emergency Relief
Navy/Marine Relief Society
Air Force Aid Society
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services

The Defense Department also recommends:
Reach out to military families in your community, especially those with a loved one overseas. Please do not flood the military mail system with letters, cards and gifts. Due to security concerns and transportation constraints, the Department cannot accept gifts or other items to be mailed to "Any Servicemember" as in past years.

Some people have tried to avoid the current prohibition by sending large numbers of packages to specific individual servicemembers' addresses. DoD officials say that while this effort is well-intentioned, it still clogs the mail and causes unnecessary delays.

Editor's Note: If you know of other organizations involved in similar support-the-troops activities, we would like to post information on their programs here. Please send information to dweditor@yahoo.com.

[Have a comment on this opinion article? Sound off in the Hot Issues with Defensewatch Forum.]

2004 DefenseWatch. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.



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