Americans are taking advantage of the Internet to support servicemembers
Stars and Stripes December 29, 2004
WASHINGTON — The staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center asked Monday that no more phone cards or other goods be collected and sent to Walter Reed through February.
Such is the crush of support for troops serving or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Internet has made much of this revolution in giving possible, with Web sites popping up regularly to help the public show their support and to try to make life a little better for some servicemember downrange.
Helping GIs communicate with distant loved ones is a popular and practical way people are helping.
Last week, Democracy for America, former presidential candidate Howard Dean’s new political action committee, donated 200,000 minutes of phone cards to patients at veterans’ hospitals in seven states.
Also last week, the Capital One finance company announced it would donate its video teleconferencing facilities in McLean, Va., and Richmond, Va., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST on Dec. 30 to connect local family members with their troops in Camp Taji (aka Camp Cooke) and Camp Fallujah.
The gesture is being made in conjunction with the Freedom Calls Foundation, www.freedomcalls.org, a New York-based nonprofit organization that links military personnel and their families worldwide.
Operation Troop Appreciation, one of many philanthropic “operations,” has fielded requests and outfitted 1,000 troops with T-shirts, socks and underwear, recently throwing a party and raffle at Finnigan’s Wake, a bar in Pittsburgh.
This nonprofit was started by Kristen Holloway and fellow students at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
Holloway asked a friend whose brother was in Iraq what he needed. When told he needed T-shirts for his platoon, Holloway solicited the help of friends and family and eventually tapped the talents of the business school to set up a nonprofit.
Books for Soldiers (found on the Internet at www.booksforsoldiers.com), which calls itself as “Care Packages for the Mind,” was started during the first Gulf War to alleviate servicemembers’ boredom during downtimes.
GIs send in addresses, which book donors can see on a message board, to mail books or other requested items. The site offers mailing tips such as keeping the packages small to ensure swift delivery.
Two authors of parenting books want servicemembers and their families to have their e-books, free of charge.
This site www.giftformilitaryfamilies.com, offers a “care package from the heart.”
Erin Brown Conroy, mother of 12 and author of “20 Secrets to Success with Your Child,” and Mort Fertel, who penned “Marriage Fitness” which he calls a step-by-step system for getting any marriage in top shape, are offered free of charge to family members of deployed servicemembers.
The site www.operationfirstresponse.org focuses on wounded troops, not just at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, but at 11 combat support hospitals in Iraq and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
With online donations, they buy a backpack and fill it with items the troops and family members always say are needed: socks, underwear, a toothbrush, razors, a 100-minute phone card, and such.
Though storage facilities at Walter Reed are full, there is always a need for cash donations to the organizations that provide support to servicemembers at Walter Reed and at other military hospitals.
Many other worthwhile organizations are listed at the “Support Our Troops” link in the Department of Defense Web site, www.defendamerica.mil/support_troops.html or at this link to America Supports You, a Web site where such organizations can get their word out.