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Doug Lang is a problem-solver who will provide HELP! to readers along the Space Coast. You write and ask the questions. He.ll do everything humanly possible to come up with straight and, hopefully, helpful answers. Lang, a resident of Viera, has a journalism degree from Eastern New Mexico University and was a writer for United Press International.

Click here for a list of Doug's past columns

> HELP! Hard to find answers and items

Jan 27, 7:44 PM

2 programs aim to help troops eat, travel free


Each year our family adopts an organization to help, instead of exchanging gifts with each other for Chanukah.

This year, I received an e-mail for AnySoldier.com stating we can send care packages to soldiers overseas. It is connected with Congressman C.A. Ruppersberger.

I would like to know if this is legitimate before we send anything.

Lynda Wilson,West MelbourneU.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., was asked about the authenticity of the AnySoldier organization before the holidays, but an answer was not forthcoming until the gift-giving season was long past.

"I apologize for this late reply," wrote Deborah Casteel, a congressional aide in Ruppersberger's Washington office.

"Operation Hero Miles and AnySoldier.com are not affiliated in any way," she went on to say. "But I can tell you that we have met the people who started AnySoldier, and it is a legitimate organization."

Casteel's reference to Operation Hero Miles was germane, because it is a program created by the congressman to help families of troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It enables troops on emergency leave or R&R to fly home for free. The military gets them as far as Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington or Dallas/Fort Worth, but from there they must pay their own way.

Through Operation Hero Miles, travelers can donate their unused frequent-flier miles for soldiers to use to get home and back again.

In a recent news release announcing expansion of the program, Ruppersberger said, "Sometimes the love and support of family is the best medicine to help an injured troop recover from his or her injuries."

Likewise, giving love and support to American soldiers is what Marty Horn, a retired Army military police officer, set out to do when he and his wife, Sue, started the AnySoldier program.

The idea for AnySoldier began with the Horns' son, Sgt. Brian Horn, an Army infantry solider with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Kirkuk area of Iraq.

He agreed to accept packages that arrived in the mail addressed "Attn: Any Soldier" and distribute them to soldiers who were not getting mail.

From there, the idea grew.


Sending food


Make sure food is in an easy-to-open container. Only factory-packaged goods are welcome.

Don't send home-cooked meals to soldiers other than your relatives or people who know you, Horn said. Soldiers are told to throw away anything that is not in a factory package.

Personal-hygiene items -- Small, easy to carry, disposable and anti-bacterial.

Entertainment -- Small and light, requiring AA batteries, nothing rechargeable.

Miscellaneous -- Small and light weight. Put items that might leak into plastic bags.


How to Send It


Mail in easy-to-handle boxes. Each box with items should be less than 10 pounds, and taped securely "as though Godzilla will be handling it," Horn said. You pay postage only to the APO connection in New York, not all the way overseas. Regular or priority mail is suggested.


Where to Send It


Addresses change as soldiers come and go, but the Web site is updated constantly. Information displayed there is current and good for the periods indicated. The online address again: AnySoldier.com

For information about Operation Hero Miles, go to www.heromiles.org


There are three ways to get help: Mail: Help! c/o Florida Today, 1 Gannett Plaza, Melbourne, FL 32940. Fax: (321) 255-9550. E-mail: go2guy4help@cfl.rr.com. Include name, address, phone.

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