Support Our Wounded Troops, but Remember Security!

By Major Van Harl, USAF Ret.

On Veterans Day weekend I have a long list of old and new veterans I call. I also e-mail out my newspaper column for that week to many of my fellow veteran friends. Of course, I got a number of responses from friends.

One of the recurring themes in the e-mails was the issue of sending letters and packages to “A Recovering American Solider” at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). A large percent of wounded troops from the Gulf pass through WRAMC. Some stay only days and some have been there ever since they were wounded. The public wants to help, and sending get well and Christmas cards seems like a nice thing to do.

Unfortuantely, sending generic mail, addressed to “any soldier” can be a serious security risk for the Army and, more importantly, for the unsuspecting troop who opens a letter and is harmed. Remember the anthrax scare right after the 911 attack? One woman actually died from being exposed to anthrax that had been sent to her home in a letter.

Unfortunately, there are too many Muslim extremist in the world who hate us, along with their undetected supporters who are living inside this country. I am sure if a package is mailed from the middle-east, addressed to “any soldier” that bells and whistles would go off at the post office and in Army channels. Someone would stop that suspicious letter or package. But what happens if “Tommy Smith,” who is really Mohammad Nemedjad living in Detroit--an unhappy Muslim whose family members were killed by American GIs in Iraq--decides to take a little revenge and mail a letter bomb from Michigan?

Airman Jones is lying in his bed at WRAMC recovering from wounds after another unhappy Iraqi blew Jones up while he was patrolling the streets of Baghdad. So, Airman Jones opens the letter, he is injured yet again and the security issues go right through the roof at WRAMC. Now more injured troops and their families, as well as the medical staff at WRAMC, are greatly inconvenienced and yet again emotionally damaged.

I contacted the Public Affairs office at WRAMC and they advised me that absolutely do not want any letters or packages sent to “A Recovering Wounded Soldier.” In fact, the post office that services WRAMC has been instructed not to send any of this type mail to Walter Reed. The letters and packages will be returned. I suspect that there are thousands of e-mails floating around online telling well-meaning supporters of our wounded troops to send these generic letters. Please do not send such letters.

If you actually know a wound troop at WRAMC, by all means contact that GI, Airman, Marine or Sailor. However, you have to use his or her complete name. You could share that person’s information with your friends and family and organize some mailed-in Christmas cheer. Make sure you have your complete return name and address on anything you send to WRAMC. If you address a package to an actual wounded GI but you leave off your return information you have created a suspicious parcel. It may not get through to your intended troop. Safety is the bottom line issue here. You do not want to do anything, no matter how well meaning, that could further harm our wounded troops.

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Copyright 2007, 2015 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret and/or All rights reserved.