Reach Out to a Soldier

All Americans are united in our admiration and concern for the soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the holidays, as we cherish time spent with family and friends, we are also aware that many of the brave men and women who are fighting for us will be spending this time of year far from home. There are some practical, personal, and meaningful ways, however, in which you can reach out and say thank you to our soldiers this holiday season.

Not surprisingly, the USO is leading the way in allowing Americans back home to send personal letters, e-mails, and "care packages" to soldiers who used to be strangers by organizing Operation USO Care Package.  This program has delivered a "touch of home" to more than one million service members since 2001. Citizens can sponsor a care package for $25 with a personal message of support and thanks to a service member. For more information, go to www.operationusocarepackage.org. The Department of Defense offers a similar service through an official group called America Supports You (http://www.americasupportsyou.mil).  Care packages can include practical things like microwave popcorn, books, or phone cards. But, in the end, it is the thought that counts most.

By all accounts, the troops appreciate knowing how thankful individuals are for their service abroad. And they are also grateful for the personal touch. As one soldier wrote, "Thank you for the many wonderful things you have sent me. Please let the person responsible for crocheting the hat know that it is a big hit with all the guys. I hope you don't mind but I shared the package with all the guys in my unit. It really helps us over here knowing there is someone back home thinking and worrying about all of us over here."

This year, I urge you to contact the USO or any of the other grassroots organizations dedicated to matching up people with troops in the field. I can't imagine a gift that would be more appreciated this holiday season. Each of us can make a difference in the lives of America's soldiers.