By Samantha L. QuigleyNovember 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (AFPS, Nov. 19, 2007) - For those seeking a way to show appreciation to troops serving far from home this holiday season, look no further than "Giving Thanks," a new initiative from the Defense Department's America Supports You program.
America Supports You connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
"This is a simple way to connect our citizens to our soldiers using modern technology," Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, said of the text messaging program.
The program, which already has received more than 40,000 messages, officially kicked off at 6 a.m. EST Nov. 17 and concludes at midnight PST Nov. 22. Between those times, people wishing to express gratitude to the troops for their service can text a brief message to 89279. Each text message sent will receive a response from an active-duty servicemember in return.
Major mobile wireless providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile, will provide access to the Giving Thanks text messaging program.
"We know that thousands of Families will be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner and thinking about loved ones who are far away from home serving their country," Ms. Barber said. "We are counting on other American Families to take a moment during their holiday celebration to think of those Families and their Family members who are serving and say, 'Thanks.'
"The reassurance that others are thinking about them will mean a lot to our troops," she added.
Those who send a message during the six days of the Giving Thanks program also will be directed to the America Supports You Web site. There, they'll find a sampling of messages from the public and a running tally of how many messages have been received. They'll also be able to read messages from the troops. Some servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan already have sent messages thanking the public for the support.
Angie, an Airman serving in Iraq, wrote: "Your support means so much, especially during the holidays. God Bless."
Troops of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan also wrote to express their appreciation for the continued support they receive: "To all the great Americans who go out of their way to support all the Soldiers of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan -- Thank You."
In an effort to reach the Hispanic community, which is represented in large numbers in the armed services, America Supports You is working with Interlex, an advertising, marketing and public relations firm with multicultural capabilities.
"What we are doing is complementing the general market efforts to mobilize the Hispanic community to become involved in America Supports You," said Rolando Rodriguez, Interlex's managing director for public relations and community-based outreach. "Obviously that's important because many Hispanics do consume different press than the general market would."
The firm's goal is to inform Hispanic communities that many Hispanic youth are serving in the military. "There (also) are a number of Hispanic Families that (will be) impacted during the holidays because (the servicemembers) are not sitting at the table with them, so it's important to show their appreciation," Mr. Rodriguez said.
(Samantha L. Quigley works for the American Forces Press Service.)