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Officials urge against unsolicited troop mail

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- To bolster force protection, the general public is urged not to send unsolicited mail, care packages or donations to forward-deployed servicemembers unless they are a family member, loved one or personal friend, said Department of Defense officials.

On Oct. 30, DOD suspended the "Operation Dear Abby" and "Any Servicemember" mail programs because of force protection concerns. Although these programs provide 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.

Unsolicited mail, packages and donations from organizations and individuals also compete for limited airlift space used to transport supplies, warfighting materiel and mail from family and loved ones.

Recently, DOD officials became aware of organizations and individuals who continue to support some form of the "Any Servicemember" program by using the names and addresses of individual servicemembers and unit addresses.

These programs are usually supported by well-intentioned, thoughtful and patriotic groups who are simply unaware of the new risks facing deployed military forces, said officials. Some individuals and groups publicize the names and addresses of servicemembers, ships or units on Web sites. The result is a potential danger to the troops they wish to support.

DOD officials cannot support creative and well-intentioned efforts that defeat force protection measures, but can instead recommend alternatives to mail and donation programs. To show support to troops overseas, the following are recommended:

-- 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 services to honor veterans who served in past conflicts.

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 servicemembers overseas, said officials.

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