Efforts to support military personnel still going strong

Posted: Friday, March 25, 2005

Now that it's been two years since the United States sent troops into Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein, many of the yellow ribbons in front of people's houses and "Support the Troops" placards in car windows around the Kenai Peninsula have disappeared.

Efforts to support those troops deployed overseas, however, have not stopped. Some have just become a bit more institutionalized.

The American Legion Post No. 20 in Kenai, for example, is actively supporting the organization's national "Soldiers 4 Soldiers" program, which seeks donations of spent inkjet computer printer cartridges and used cell phones.

Begun by Airman 1st Class Fallon O'Brien, the program turns in the items to a company that recycles them, and in return, donates money to the American Legion. The legion then purchases phone cards that are given to troops stationed away from home.

According to Post 20 First Vice Commander Tom Schanrock, the post started collecting the inkjet cartridges and cell phones this month.

"Anyone can just drop them off at the post," Schanrock said.

Priceless Inkjet Corp. will pay for shipping the items from the post to the corporation, which will donate $1 for each cartridge and $3 for each cell phone to the American Legion.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 10046 in Soldotna also is raising funds for phone cards for soldiers.

Organized as Operation Uplink, the national VFW program provides free prepaid phone cards to active duty service men and women and to hospitalized veterans.

The program began in 1996, but its popularity increased in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

The VFW and the VFW Auxiliary already have distributed 4 million phone cards representing 60 million minutes.

The Soldotna VFW post is accepting donations and conducting raffles and split-the-pots to raise funds to purchase the phone cards.

Am Vets Post No. 4 in the Red Diamond Center is continuing its care package program for active duty troops.

Donated items are packaged and shipped directly to troops stationed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Bob Jones, AmVets post adjutant, said items troops are requesting include beef jerky, magazines, newspapers, can-ned weenies and all kinds of snack foods.

"People can just drop them off at the post," Jones said.

Post member Jim Ries, who has a son on active duty in the U.S. Army who recently returned from Iraq, gathers donated items, packages them and ships them directly to units on a mailing list he maintains.

Jones said the post opens every day at noon.

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