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Defense: Do not send mail



Published: Tue, March 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Department of Defense recommends supporting troops in other ways.

VIENNA -- Pentagon officials have urged the general public not to send unsolicited mail, care packages or donations to deployed service members unless they are a family member, loved one or personal friend.

On Oct. 30, 2002, the Department of Defense suspended the "Operation Dear Abby" and "Any Servicemember" mail programs because of security concerns.

Although these programs provide an excellent means of support to friends and loved ones stationed overseas, they also provide an avenue to introduce hazardous substances or materials into the mail system from unknown sources, Defense officials said.

Also, unsolicited mail, packages and donations from organizations and individuals compete for limited airlift space used to transport supplies, war-fighting material and mail from family and loved ones.

Mail from family members and loved ones has always been encouraged and the military mail system will continue to work hard to get that mail to service members overseas, officials said.

Unaware patriots

But recently, the Defense Department has become aware of organizations and individuals who continue to support some form of "any service member" program by using the names and address of individual service members and unit address.

These programs are usually supported by well-intentioned, thoughtful and patriotic groups who are simply unaware of the new risks facing deployed military forces.

Some individuals and groups publicize the names and addresses of service members, ships or units on Web sites, with good intentions. The result, however, is a potential danger to the troops they wish to support.

The Defense Department recommends alternatives to mail and donation programs to support troops overseas:

* Log on to the following Web sites to show support, to include greeting cards, virtual Thank You cards and calling card donations to help troops stay in contact with loved ones:

http://www.defendamerica.mil/support_troops.html

http://www.usocares.org/home.htm

http://www.army.mil/operations/iraq/faq.html

* Visit Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and nursing homes. Volunteer your services to honor veterans who served in past conflicts.




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