Happy holidays from the armed forces!

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 23, 2002

This week my safe boating column takes a slight detour. Instead of discussing new safety equipment, changes in the law or other issues to making your recreational boating experience as enjoyable as possible, I want to focus on the holidays and service members who are serving overseas. I also want to provide some ideas on how you can say thanks from the comfort of our home.

Having spent over 19 years of active duty service between the Coast Guard and Navy, I have missed my share of holidays. It’s a fact of life. If you go to sea, or serve in the one of the armed forces you will miss holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

This year we have a lot to be thankful for. All of us also owe a debt of gratitude to those that are serving overseas or underway. As the holidays are now mere days away a few Suffolk residents have asked me how they can show their support for service members serving overseas in a very challenging period of our country’s history. Many used to send cards to Dear Abby’s &uot;Any Service Member&uot; program. This is not available now because of security concerns.

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There are, however, some ways, even through cybermail, that one can send greetings.

Obviously as an active duty member of the Armed Forces I can’t endorse any of these sites. I can, however, pass along the information for your consideration.

Since I mentioned that Dear Abby’s actual card program was stopped, it’s good to start with the new Operation Dear Abby cyber greetings. Simply go to

http://www.Operation-DearAbby.net and click on the &uot;Send a Message&uot; e-mail. The site also includes details about the program and how it matured to its present state.

The second opportunity to send holiday greetings and thank you comes via the Department of Defense’s &uot;News About the War on Terrorism&uot; Web site: http://www.defendamerica.mil/nmam.html. More than 2.4 million people have visited this site and sent greetings. It only takes five seconds to add your name to the growing list. It’s a neat chance to show support.

The final opportunity I wanted to highlight is a wonderful program which is being sponsored by the VFW Foundation which provides a free telephone phone calling card to deployed members or members serving overseas. Details on the phone card are found at Operation Uplink: http://-www.operationuplink.org/.

Cards can only be sent to hospitalized veterans or active duty military personnel deployed away from home. Phone cards will only be sent only to the following types of addresses: 1) military addresses 2) hospitals or nursing homes.

Please allow 2-6 weeks for delivery, especially during the holidays.

Until next week….Boat Safe, Boat Smart and Happy Holidays!

LCDR Joe DiRenzo III is a resident of Suffolk, and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.