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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2005

New season for giving

Fourth of July has run its course, and like the natural lull in generosity after the Christmas holiday season, one might not be as focused on citizens still serving our country in the Armed Forces.

But there are many solid organizations on the internet set up to maintain the connection between military personnel and folks on the home front.

It used to be as easy as sending a care package of cookies, gum and magazines to any soldier. But because of security concerns it's better to work through a reputable organization, such as the USO or VFW.

These organizations and programs provide communication:

• Operation Phone Home provides prepaid international calling cards (100-minute global calling cards) to deployed military ($10).

• Operation Homelink facilitates e-mail communication between soldiers overseas and their families at home. The organization provides a free refurbished computer to the spouse or parents of some troops.


• Prepaid calling cards to a military member can be donated by logging on to any of the three Armed Services Exchange web sites:

Army and Air Force Exchange Service (http://www.aafes.com/)

Navy Exchange Service Command (http://www.navy-nex.com/)

Marine Corps Exchange (http://www.usmc-mccs.org/)

• Cell Phones for Soldiers provides soldiers with prepaid calling cards, with the ultimate goal of providing banks of cell, satellite, or VOIP communications.


• OperationDearAbby.net enables you to send e-mail to military personnel.


• Operation Uplink keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families by providing a free phone card.


These organizations and programs provide needed things:

• Operation USO Care Package provides a safe and secure way for the public to purchased a package ($25 donation) and have it delivered to service members who are either in route to an assignment or currently deployed.

• Gift Certificates to the Commissary or the Exchange provides gift certificates to be used by service members at base exchanges.


• The Gift of Groceries program allows anyone to purchase commissary gift certificates for deployed troops and their families at http://www.commissaries.com or by calling toll free 1-877-770-GIFT.

• The Armed Services Exchanges offer the Gift From the Homefront gift certificate for merchandise at these exchange Web sites: http://www.aafes.com and http://www.navy-nex.com or by calling toll free 1-877-770-GIFT.

• Soldiers Angels supports soldiers with mail and support, and supports wounded soldiers with transitional backpacks, personal visits and phone calls.


Build a package, but make sure that it gets there and is something that can be used or shared.

This best of list of ideas for packages comes from 2frogs.net. Factor in the carrying weight and heat, so keep it small, dry, and unscented (scented attracts bugs).

• Cigarettes (among the most-requested items by troops in the Middle East).

• Powdered Gatorade and Ramen noodles.

• Paper, envelopes, and pens (military personnel do not need stamps).

• Hard candy. Chocolate is dehydrating, and will melt. Gum may also melt, unless pre-packed in a plastic bag.

• Family pictures.

• Books (paperbacks).

• Ivory soap (because it floats).

• Disposable cameras.

• Bug repellent (like Deep Woods Off) to fight off sand fleas.

• Small packages of ground coffee and instant hot chocolate.

• Big Ziploc bags to keep things dry and sand-free.

• Seasonings for MREs (Mrs. Dash, hot sauce, Tobasco sauce).

• Blow-up kiddie pool.

• Chips in vacuum-packed cans.

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