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If you've ever been away from home or had a kid away at school, you know the joy a touch of home can bring. Imagine how it lifts a soldier's spirits to get a simple thank you or some words of encouragement. Even if you don't have a family member or friend in the military, you can still communicate that you care.
Reach out to our guys and gals in uniform as an individual or as part of a group. If you're a parent, involve your kids as a way of helping them understand things they're hearing on the news in a productive way. If you're a teacher, involve your class or the whole school. Your congregation, book club, service or professional organization, department at the office, or even your inner circle of friends might want to boost the troops' -- and your own -- morale. Here are some ways you can.
Due to heightened security, you can no longer address a letter to "Any Service Member" and have the military forward it. But you can send an electronic message through OperationDearAbby.net. The private, secure online resource was established by Dear Abby with the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy's LIFELines2000 Services Network. Go online and choose one or all branches of the military and send a message (1,000 characters or less) on the provided form. Service members can log on to OperationDearAbby.net to read the messages. Teachers and parents might consider writing their message as a school or family project.
The Defense Department lets you send a generic Thank You to our troops at the Defend America Web site. There you can also read U.S. Department of Defense news.
The American public knows how to rally. According to the USO, donations for care packages to be given to our deploying troops have been so generous that the USO is now able to focus on using donations to fund other much-needed programs of support. In the 62 years it's been part of American culture and military history, the nonprofit USO has learned well what our service members need and want. It provides things like Internet access, free phone cards, libraries, cyber cafes, and travel assistance. The USO also operates mobile canteens and airport centers stateside and abroad.
Check with your local VFW or Women's Auxiliary post to find out how they are supporting our troops through their Adopt-A-Unit programs. Even if you personally don't know a service member, you could participate through one of these organizations and show the troops in an adopted unit that you care.