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Busy Times for Groups Offering Tangible Support to the Troops

posted on Nov 15 2005 0 Comments


November 14, 2005  New York Times

Busy Times for Groups Offering Tangible Support to the Troops


WITH Motown tunes blasting in the background, about 900 volunteers for Operation Gratitude spent Veterans Day and this past weekend getting blisters on their hands and sore backs on an assembly line in the California Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, Calif. They were there packing 15,000 boxes for soldiers in Iraq with items like energy bars, coffee, DVD’s, CD’s, phone cards and T-shirts for shipment this morning.
Carolyn Blashek, who started Operation Gratitude (opgratitude.com) in March 2003, said this weekend was the kickoff to a season-long drive that lasts until the middle of December. In the 2½ years she has been doing this, her organization has sent more than 71,000 boxes of goods. But this year, she said, they are “way busier.”
As the war in Iraq approaches its third year, the efforts of the American public to provide the troops there with supplies ranging from body armor to extra socks and toothbrushes have grown and become more organized. These groups also send supplies to troops in Afghanistan. Some organizations have also begun providing services to soldiers returning home from combat, particularly those with serious wounds. And more such groups keep coming. At least 32 charities with the words “military and veterans” had their names registered for a tax exemption with the Internal Revenue Service in 2004; so far this year, at least 25 more have registered.
The federal government has noticed . Last November, the Department of Defense started a Web site called americasupportsyou.mil, a clearinghouse for information on supporting the troops. The site gets over 100,000 new visitors each month on average. It includes a state-by-state list of certified charities, news articles and e-mail messages to and from the troops.
Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman, said the proliferation of such charities is not a result of the troops’ having more needs but rather reflects a growing interest by civilians who want to help. “People want to feel that they can contribute,” he said. “It’s a great measure of the intensity of support for our troops.”



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