Thursday, February 11, 2016
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Published: Sunday, 12/12/2004

Too much of a good thing

SO MANY well meaning Americans have been shipping unsolicited "care packages" to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon is overwhelmed and has called a halt to the practice.

It's a regrettable case of too much of a good thing, although we can't help but note that the unmanageable outpouring of kindness toward the GIs is at least partly the fault of those who are supposed to supply the soldiers with their basic necessities but have fallen down on the job.

Home-front groups began collecting personal items for shipment to the war zones after hearing about a great number of well documented cases in which troops complained to their families about shortages of things like toilet paper or even body armor.

This was a strong reflection of the lack of planning and logistics in the rush to war in Iraq. We went before we were ready, either with supplies or even proof that military action was necessary.

In any case, the troops should not be made to suffer and it is hard to fault folks back here in the States for wanting to make sure that the soldiers who are risking their lives are equipped with life's little comforts, like lip balm.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, a generous shipment of ChapStick to Wisconsin National Guard units ended up buried in the desert. The troops, it turned out, were well supplied and they couldn't give the stuff away.

A lackluster military postal system has been another shortcoming of the Iraq operation. It is often said that an army travels on its stomach, but reliable daily mail also is a necessity.

As one official put it, "There's only so much postal capacity. The [care package] may be well intentioned, but it competes for the same space that gets a letter from a little girl to her dad."

The Defense Department is not playing Scrooge this holiday season, only reminding Americans that service members should only be sent mail by family members and friends to whom they personally give their military address.

A better idea for those eager to help is to make sure that the families of those serving abroad are taken care of. At least half of the loneliness of war is lodged on the home front.

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