Soldiers Share in Holiday Cheer Electronically

The Internet is providing new life for one of the military's most popular programs?Operation Dear Abby.

A cooperative program between the Armed Forces, Dear Abby and LifeLines Services Network is allowing the columnist's annual holiday greeting program to delivery messages from home to service members deployed around the world.

Since 1967, Dear Abby has encouraged 95 million daily readers to write to service members during the holiday season. The program was threatened this year because of the anthrax scare, when Defense Department officials reluctantly discontinued Operation Dear Abby out of security concerns.

Rather than disappoint hundreds of thousands of troops away from home, the military went to work to develop an Internet solution.

Since Dear Abby invented the original postal service program, officials asked for her support for the new, Web-based approach. The columnist endorsed it in her column, and her own personal message and name are on the first page of the Web site.

Transferring Operation Dear Abby to the World Wide Web has one significant advantage: Rather than being limited to the holiday season, it will now be a year-round program.

OperationDearAbby.net, powered by AnyServiceMember.Navy.mil, allows participants to select from one or all branches of the military. To receive a message of support, service members go to the Web sites and choose messages from their branch of service and home state. Since all messages are viewed on the Web, the military's regular e-mail systems are not affected.

Anyone who wishes to send a message to troops may do so at http://www.OperationDearAbby.net or http://www.LifeLines2000.org.

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