- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

Rep. Sam Johnson knows first-hand how much a letter from home means to soldiers engaged in war overseas.
The Texas Republican and retired Air Force colonel fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars, spending seven years in the latter as a prisoner of war and half of that time in solitary confinement.
So when the Defense Department announced a program allowing Americans to e-mail troops overseas to thank them for their sacrifice and dedication, Mr. Johnson quickly sent out a call for volunteer letter writers.
"When you are alone overseas and away from your family and support groups, it really helps to get a letter from home," Mr. Johnson said.
"It helps lift your spirits and gives you a boost," he added.
The Defense Department canceled two popular letter-writing programs, "Operation Dear Abby" and "Any Servicemember," because of the recent anthrax attacks through the mail.
The increased manpower required to ensure safe mail handling, and the increased volume of mail that letter-writing campaigns generate, could not be supported. As a result, the Navy has developed a Web-based alternative to benefit members of all branches of the armed forces.
Mr. Johnson has already sent two messages, one to the Air Force and another to the Navy.
"I just wanted to let them know someone in Washington is thinking about them. It's helpful for them to know we are behind them. They're doing a super job as far as I can tell," Mr. Johnson said.
E-mail messages and holiday greetings can be sent to sailors, Marines, soldiers, airmen or Coast Guardsman at www.LIFELines2000.org and http://AnyServiceMember.Navy.mil.
"If we can encourage them with a few e-mails it ought to help them get into the holiday spirit," Mr. Johnson said.
"Operation Dear Abby" was founded by the newspaper advice columnist Abigail van Buren and has delivered mail to service members overseas during the holiday season for more than 17 years. The "Any Servicemember" mail program began during the run-up to the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and continued to grow in 1995 during the Bosnia operations.

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