An ongoing Army and Air Force Exchange Service program has raised $1.2 million to put prepaid phone cards into the hands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The “Help Our Troops Call Home” program allows people without AAFES privileges to purchase phone cards online for servicemembers downrange.

The program began in April, and, as of December, purchasers had spent $1,283,945 to buy 32,113 phone cards, according to an AAFES release.

The cost on the AAFES Web site,, is $39 for a 550-unit prepaid card, $14.99 for a 200-unit card and $20 for a ship to shore card. Shipping is 37 cents for each type. There also are options to buy the cards in increments of 10 or 25 cards.

The costs per minute for the cards, according to the Web site, are 21 cents for the 550-unit card, 23 cents for the 200 unit card and 50 cents for the ship to shore card. These special rates are good through Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

The posted rates are for calls to the United States. Rates for servicemembers to call family members stationed in Europe were not posted on the Web site.

Purchasers can either buy the cards for “any servicemember” or for an individual deployed servicemember.

The phone cards also are helpful to the military postal service downrange, said Debbie Byerly, an AAFES-Europe spokeswoman.

“One of the reasons we implemented this program was to help the military postal service, which has to process all the gifts” that the American public sent to deployed troops, Byerly said. “If a group raises $1,000, they could purchase $1,000 in phone cards, and that won’t take up as much space as other gifts may.”

Based on AAFES’ surveys of deployed troops, the phone cards are an ideal gift, she said.

“In surveys, the soldiers have said that their phone calls home mean everything to them,” Byerly said. “Nothing replaces the voice of a loved one or having the opportunity to talk to your family while you’re deployed.”

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