Support Our Troops


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D.W. Drang
March 30, 2003, 01:05 AM
I will state right up front that is only related to firearms in the remotest sense, i.e. that military personnel carry them.

I first posted this in this thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=15655

I see the subject of "Sending stuff to the troops" keeps coming up, though, so here it is again.

Bottom Line: No more mailing to "Any Servicemember."

I was told yesterday at the USO Center at Seatac Airport that they are working closely with the families of deployed personnel, many of whom are hurting; if they don't need the donation, they CAN send it to GI Joe/Jane.

If you're not in the Puget Sound region I would suggest that you contact the nearest installation and/or Reserve Center and see if they have a way to get donations to family members and/or friends who CAN send stuff to deployed personnel.
The Family Support Group (or whatever that particular service calls it) will probably be your Point of Contact.

(And if you DO have a local contact URL, email address, or phone number, please post it here!)


SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/114581_soldierhelp28.shtml

Even with tight regulations, Americans find plenty of ways to aid the military
Friday, March 28, 2003

By KRISTIN DIZON
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Americans love to send a shot of morale to their soldiers in hostile lands in airmail envelopes and brown-paper packages.

Many a GI has opened a soul-savoring missive or clutched an embroidered handkerchief or tasted a sweet chocolate-chip cookie, all sent by complete strangers.

Cut to the post-Sept. 11 world, and a grand old tradition has become a big no-no. The Department of Defense no longer will send snail mail or packages addressed to "any soldier." Not in a 21st-century world in which anthrax or other biological weapons or bombs can be sent in the mail. (Family and friends can still send snail mail if they have the service person's address.)

It's simply too much of a security risk to deliver unknown items from unknown sources to the men and women in the armed forces, so the Pentagon brass suspended popular mail programs in October.

But many people are looking for ways to express their support directly to military personnel.

There are still plenty of outlets, many of them electronic, but there also are plenty of ways to volunteer your time, donate goods or send a check.

anyservicemember.navy.mil, which also is known as www.operationdearabby.net, is a popular way of sending a message under the new guidelines. E-mails aren't sent directly to a GI; instead military folks have to log on and scroll through messages on the site. They can see messages intended for a particular service branch or ones that come from their home state by using pull-down menus.

www.defendamerica.mil/nmam.html is a site where you can sign an online thank-you card for troops.

www.operationuplink.org encourages people to donate money for calling cards that help troops stay in touch with their families.

www.anyservicemember.org is a private site run by a civilian who works in Army public affairs. Jack Coffey of Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Ga., started his message service in November 2001. Service members visit the site to view messages. Coffey isn't sure how many messages have been posted, but he said there are more than 27,000 messages for Army personnel alone. You also can sign up for a military pen pal here.

www.commissaries.com is a site where you can buy grocery gift certificates for soldiers and their families for discounted commissary goods. Click, "Operation: give the gift of groceries." If you don't know a specific person to send them to, you can choose distribution by the Air Force Aid Society, the USO or Fisher House Foundation, which houses military personnel and families when a loved one is at a military medical center.

The American Red Cross runs a canteen at Fort Lewis for deploying soldiers. Volunteers serve coffee, juice and snacks to troops, who often spend hours in lines while being processed for duty. They also give soldiers care packages when they have the supplies.

The Red Cross also helps inform troops in the field of family emergencies such as a death, a critical illness or the birth of a baby.

"People die every day. People get ill every day," said Al Oliver, the senior station manager at the Fort Lewis Red Cross. "And when you least expect it, somebody hits you with bad news."

First, the Red Cross verifies the information, then sends a message through the military locator system. During combat, military commanders may only let life or death messages be delivered to the soldier.

You can contact them with emergency messages by e-mailing: redcross@lewis.army.mil or calling 253-967-4288.

If you'd like to donate goods, the station can use cranberry, orange or apple juice and unused and unopened toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, combs, lip balm and sunscreen. Please call ahead to check what's needed and to arrange for delivery or pickup.

They're also happy to have volunteers for Monday through Friday canteen shifts, but are limited to people who have military IDs.

If you'd like to send a check to support the Fort Lewis station, you can mail it to: The American Red Cross, P.O. Box 33218, Fort Lewis, WA 98433.

Most people think of the USO, or United Service Organizations, as the group that sends celebrities such as Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and Sheryl Crow to entertain overseas troops. But the non-profit charitable corporation, which is not a government agency, does much more to support service members and lift their morale.

The USO operates 121 centers around the world with the help of 12,000 volunteers. Another 27 affiliate centers are run independently around the United States, including one at Sea-Tac Airport and one at McChord Air Force Base.

The USO is giving care packages to soldiers at some of its locations. The $25 package includes toiletries, pre-paid phone cards, magazines and other items.

If you want to contribute to the "Operation USO Care Package," or you'd like to send a general contribution, you can mail a check to USO World Headquarters, P.O. Box 70264, Washington, DC 20024. See also www.usocares.org/home.htm or call 800-876-7469.

The USO of the Puget Sound Area Inc. has run a military lounge at Sea-Tac, without interruption, since July 1966. It's one of only three such 24-hour USO centers in the world.

In their 2,500 square feet, they greet troops, serve food, offer 12 bunks for sleeping and daybeds and cribs for traveling military families, provide showers, video games, big-screen TV, Internet access and more.

"I think it's a tremendous asset to soldiers to give them a little refuge -- a place to unwind while they're waiting on flights," said Henry, an Army computer technician on his way from his posting in Korea to visit family in Michigan. "It's a blessing."

Krista Cossalter Sandberg, executive director of the center, hears that all the time. "I have never been more appreciated," she said. "Every day, I'm told 'thank you.' I'm hugged and I get letters, too."

The center normally serves 90,000 military personnel and their families every year. In just three months, they've already surpassed those numbers this year.

Sandberg says the center can use donations of paper plates, plastic cups, postage stamps, postcards, stationery, pre-paid phone cards, individually packaged chips and snacks, and more.

But she said people should always call and check first before bringing things to the center. She also said it's better to work through established non-profit groups that know the rules rather than giving to individuals who are taking up collections.

Volunteers are always needed at the USO and commit to at least two, four-hour shifts each month. Call 206-246-1908. If you have a military ID, you can also volunteer at the McChord USO, 206-982-1100.

You can send a monetary donation to: USO Puget Sound Area, 2nd Floor, Main Terminal, Sea-Tac Airport, Seattle, WA 98158. Their Web site is www.usopsa.org

Service organizations also say there's plenty you can do to honor veterans, by visiting Veterans Affairs hospitals and nursing homes.

Other groups that help military families include the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the YMCA of the USA.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

P-I reporter Kristin Dizon can be reached at 206-448-8118 or kristindizon@seattlepi.com

© 1998-2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
One inaccuracy in the article: The Seatac USO Lounge did close it's doors once, for about 2 hours, while the Port of Seattle inspected for damage after the Nisqually quake of February 2001.

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