Web Sites for Troops Draw Interest; Support Groups Get Major Boost after Mention in President's Speech

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Cella, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Hits on a Pentagon Web site referenced by President Bush during a speech Tuesday night as a resource to learn about private efforts to support service members increased 100 times after the president asked Americans to find a way to thank their soldiers on July 4.

The site, www.americasupportsyou.mil, is the Internet home of the Defense Department's internal program to showcase support for service members among everyday Americans.

Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said traffic on the Web site spiked from 103 hits per second before the speech to a peak of more than 10,900 hits per second afterwards. "When people have the chance to do something great for our troops, that's what they do," she said.

Ms. Barber said the site started Nov. 19 as a conduit between Americans at home and service members abroad so they could read about the corporate donations, community fundraisers and the letter-writing campaigns that were taking place on their behalf.

"We heard some questions from our deployed troops asking if Americans were still supportive of them," she said. "We realized there was a disconnect. There was support here at home, but nobody was telling the troops."

The Web site also has links to more than 150 nonprofit organizations that provide services to troops, including sending mail and packages to the service members and providing scholarships to their children.

Carolyn Blashek runs the Encino, Calif.-based Operation Gratitude, which is linked to the "America Supports You" Web site and has sent nearly 70,000 care packages to troops since military action in Iraq began in March 2003. …