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United Methodists asked to help keep soldiers connected

11/10/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

A UMNS Report By Kathy L. Gilbert*

As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, United Methodists are being invited to reach out and touch a soldier serving in Iraq with donations of phone cards.As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, United Methodists are being invited to reach out and touch a soldier serving in Iraq with donations of phone cards.

The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the agency that oversees military chaplains endorsed by the church, is calling on United Methodists to consider sending long-distance phone cards to soldiers in time for the holidays.

"Many of our troops are missing critical events in their families--births, deaths, serious illness," says the Rev. Greg Hill, a director with the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, a unit of the board. "Phone cards would show how much our troops and their families are appreciated."

The agency will collect the phone cards and send them to United Methodist chaplains for distribution to the troops.

"The chaplains can use the phone cards to assist troops in time of need, especially for hospitalized soldiers who want to call home," Hill says.

Care packages sent from home have been a welcome and needed moral booster for the troops, say chaplains at Fort Stewart, Ga., who recently returned from Iraq.

United Methodist Chaplain Jerry Sieg received more than 100 pounds of Twizzlers from the Stewartstown (Pa.) United Methodist Church in the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference, because of a casual comment he made to his wife about the red chewy candy being able to hold up to the intense heat.

"It was a powerful thing to know the people back home were behind us and supporting us with prayers," he says. "It was made evident with cards and letters, life-saving kits and care packages that came. I will be forever grateful."

Capt. Michael O'Neill, also serving at Fort Stewart, talked about how important it was to the troops to receive mail and packages from home.

"When the war started the mail could not keep us with us, there was a time when there was little or no mail," he says.

When the troops reached Baghdad, they were running out of food and didn't know when they might be attacked, but O'Neill says the mail was the only thing they were really worried about.

"The mail is what grounded us. The Christian love of families and friends."
Chaplain Jay West with Fort Campbell, Ky., asked churches in his conference to participate in "Operation Desert Care Package." During a family day gathering on the post in Sept., the "home team" gave certificates of appreciation to those who had sent care packages to the soldiers.
"I thought it would be wonderful if we received 50 packages," he says. "I was overwhelmed when I was able to deliver more than 500 care packages to these men and women. This is truly an example of sharing God's love."
Phone cards can be sent to: United Methodist Endorsing Agency, General Board Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.
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*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

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