DALLAS, Texas (Army News Service, Nov. 17, 2006) - Nothing brightens the day of a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman more than a care package filled with special items from home. Unfortunately, as the holidays approach and well-meaning Americans step up troop support efforts, many of the handwritten cards and homemade cookies take longer to reach their destinations.

"Ultimately the boxes of batteries, toothbrushes and shaving cream can delay some much needed and requested items from friends and family," said Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Eaton, Army & Air Force Exchange Service senior enlisted advisor. "While any and all support is very much appreciated, those who choose to support our troops this holiday season should consider whether the items they are collecting and mailing are truly needed."

Today, AAFES operates 53 PX/BX facilities throughout Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The stock assortment found in these exchanges varies from location to location, but even the most basic operation provides access to toiletries, phone cards and cold drinks.

Any American can provide these and many more items to deployed troops by ordering a lightweight "Gift from the Homefront" gift certificate for less than it costs to send a 1-pound package.

With the PX/BX certificates, available at aafes.org or (877) 770-4438, troops can pick up toothpaste, socks or even Burger King Whoppers when they want them. "Gifts from the Homefront" are not only redeemable at exchanges throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, but can also be used at any of the 187 name brand fast food outlets AAFES operates in the contingency theater.

"Exchange gift certificates provide an affordable and efficient troop support option that can mitigate the impact America's generosity can have on holiday mail from spouses, parents and friends," said Eaton. "Speeding delivery of these critical items is one of the best possible gifts we can send troops spending the holidays far from home."

The gift certificates may be sent to an individual servicemember, designated by the purchaser, or distributed to "any servicemember" through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, Fisher House, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Operation Homefront, Operation Interdependence®, Soldier & Family Assistance Center, USA Cares or USO.

As of Nov. 1, more than 71,000 "Gifts from the Homefront" gift certificates have been sent since the inception of the troop support campaign in March 2003. More than 19,000 of these have been delivered to servicemembers and their families via AAFES' 10 charitable partners.