- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hits on a Pentagon Web site referenced by President Bush during a speech Tuesday night as a resource to learn about private efforts to support service members increased 100 times after the president asked Americans to find a way to thank their soldiers on July 4.

The site, www.americasupportsyou.mil, is the Internet home of the Defense Department’s internal program to showcase support for service members among everyday Americans.

Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said traffic on the Web site spiked from 103 hits per second before the speech to a peak of more than 10,900 hits per second afterwards. “When people have the chance to do something great for our troops, that’s what they do,” she said.

Ms. Barber said the site started Nov. 19 as a conduit between Americans at home and service members abroad so they could read about the corporate donations, community fundraisers and the letter-writing campaigns that were taking place on their behalf.

“We heard some questions from our deployed troops asking if Americans were still supportive of them,” she said. “We realized there was a disconnect. There was support here at home, but nobody was telling the troops.”

The Web site also has links to more than 150 nonprofit organizations that provide services to troops, including sending mail and packages to the service members and providing scholarships to their children.

Carolyn Blashek runs the Encino, Calif.-based Operation Gratitude, which is linked to the “America Supports You” Web site and has sent nearly 70,000 care packages to troops since military action in Iraq began in March 2003.

She said she was “thrilled” to hear Mr. Bush call on Americans to find a way to thank service members. “I can tell you my Web site was jumping last night after the president’s speech,” she said, adding that the increase in traffic was coming through America Supports You.

“America Supports You has been just a wonderful organization,” she said. “Every service member needs to know that it’s not just their families who know and appreciate what they’re doing, but every American.”

But the Web site also is a clearinghouse for the simple messages of support and gratitude from Americans nationwide.

Allan Eisel of Damascus, Md., posted this message on the Web site a few weeks ago: “I just want each and every single member of our military to know how very proud I am of them. They make me prouder than ever to be an American. Not only is the work they are doing helping to secure the future and safety of our country, but the entire world.”

Mr. Eisel said yesterday that he discovered the Web site late last year. He said he was looking for a way to express his gratitude to soldiers during the Christmas season when he saw a donation drive organized by the U.S. Postal Service.

“One thing I heard was that I could buy a phone card for a soldier in Iraq,” he said, adding that the Web site was a good way for people to make the most out of their desire to express support.

“I think it’s very helpful,” he said. “I think it’s really, really important that people back home let these kids know we haven’t forgotten about them and that we support them.”

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