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Veterans giving free phone cards to airmen

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 27, 2002) -- Servicemembers who have served overseas in the past are once again giving assistance to those currently serving overseas.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation, through the Air Force Aid Society, is providing phone cards and other items to overseas Air Force members and to their families at home.

This is the fourth consecutive year the VFW Foundation has conducted the program, called "Operation Uplink." The cards will also be given to members of the other military branches and their families.

The administrator of corporate and foundation development for the VFW Foundation said the program provides a growing and viable service to those who need it the most.

"Operation Uplink has provided more than a million cards over three years to the military," Mike Meyer said. "This holiday season, Operation Uplink will join with Wal-Mart's Good Works Program, Hallmark and Federal Express to deliver one of these cards to every active-duty military person stationed overseas."

The phone cards should be available in family support centers and from personnel support for contingency operations, or PERSCO, teams in time for the holiday season, he said. The cards will be made available overseas through an agreement with Federal Express.

Besides phone cards, the VFW Foundation provides other items distributed to the military members and their families, such as cookies, playing cards, puzzles, books on tape, writing kits, bulletin boards, birthday candles and toys.

The ability and willingness of the VFW to support today's military people was not lost on retired Lt. Gen. Mike McGinty, chief executive officer of AFAS, which serves as a gateway to the Air Force for organizations wanting to provide assistance.

"They have access to a lot of -- I call them 'goodies' -- items that companies have taken off the market or have an excess of," McGinty said. "VFW has offered to ship those goodies to us so we can share them with the troops and their families."

The primary reason the VFW provides this type of support to the armed forces, Meyer said, is because they understand the needs of military members serving overseas.

"We are also cognizant of the needs of their families when those veterans are gone and they are serving," Meyer said.

It all comes down to assuring the military member that his or her family is taken care of back home, so that he or she can concentrate on the mission, he said. "We feel that if a veteran's family is 100 percent taken care of, they can support their family member who is overseas," Meyer said. "As a result, the servicemember will know his family is taken care of, and he will feel better about serving his country."