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Thanks to a Daily Kos diary (originally posted on the Democratic Underground) that I forwarded to Democrats here in Virginia, a flood of donated phone cards poured into Walter Reed Hospital to benefit injured Iraqi vets and their families, a demonstration of the remarkable potenial of grassroots networks beyond the presidential race.

Elaine, who received the e-mail through my friends at ReDefeat Bush works at MCI and reports:

My VP jumped on the phone cards for Vets.  We are sending hundreds today to the Marine Casuality Branch at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed. MCI had an effort in the works for Iraqi soldiers but Geri's note made a difference for the injured here.

Here is MCI's November 16 press release:

ASHBURN, Va., November 16, 2004 - MCI, Inc. (NASDAQ: MCIP) today announced that as part of its continued effort to support U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed in Iraq, it will provide them free phone calls November 21-27 and December 21 through January 1. ... In addition, In an effort to help U.S. troops traveling through, stationed or recuperating in the United States, MCI has provided pre-paid calling cards to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical centers and for distribution at Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Hartsfield airports.

Another recipient passed the e-mail onto her office manager and that law firm is adopting the injured troops at Walter Reed as their "holiday family" this year and will be sending phone cards up.

Katy mined for further gold at MCI, and got this response:

I was forwarded your message about providing services to Walter Reed hospital. It is a great idea and we are looking into whether the long distance contract with the hospital will allow us to provide free calling. In the meantime, we would be more than happy to donate prepaid calling cards for the military personnel and families to use this holiday season. Please let me know how many cards you may need and where to send them. Look forward to working with you.

MCI Public Relations
(phone and contact info was provided)

And she spoke to Staff Sgt. Joe Lee at Walter Reed: "He's been put in charge of answering queries from people about the phone cards because of the overwhelming response from around the country!! He said that last month, they used 55,000 minutes for calling home - and they're received almost that much since Geri sent out her email last week! Can you believe it!!? This is a testament to how one person CAN make a difference." (note that the plea for assistance has circulated widely on blogs. I just added my hub.)

Liz bought four phone cards (each worth 100 minutes) and mailed them, with a card. "I made a point of noting that I -- that we all -- support the troops and included my affiliation with my county Democratic party as a precinct captain.  I think it's vital that we let these guys know that we Democrats support them (even if we don't support the war, though I held off on adding that clause)."

Lynn wrote: My sister sent the Walter Reed address on to the girl scout troop and the girls are going to try and organize to buy some phone cards.

Bryan reported: "I picked up three Costco cards yesterday.  I spoke with the manager.  He told me that he had given the same to a lady as a Costco contribution and would provide another three if she stopped by in December.  Congratulations on securing $120 for the troops!"

Bryan thinks we could make this a continuing commitment to help the troops who have are suffering the most. 

I wonder if we could get some people together to sponsor a phone call every minute of the year ($15,690).  If that seems too tall an order, we could make it every waking minute and figure a standard 8 hours of sleep ($10,460).  How extensive is your network?  I think my wife would let me contribute four or five hundred dollars a year.  If we got a $100/yr commitment, we would need 157 folks for the round the clock version.  Perhaps that would require too much organizing.  A better way to present it might be for folks to buy one Costco card a month.  Then we would need just 65 people, which sounds doable. 

It is just a thought.  I would be happy knowing that at any minute, round the clock, an injured soldier would be able call their loved one thanks to us.  In World War II, everyone was asked to make sacrifices to help the war effort.  That feeling of unity was healthy for the country.  Now, most of us continue our struggle for the greenback while a select few, mostly lower-income people, wage our war for us.  We have not been called upon to make any sacrifice.  In fact, the expense of the war has been fobbed off on future generations.  Thank you for offering me this way to feel like I am making at least a small sacrifice to support our troops. 

I would bet that Costco would help us whittle down the 65 head count with an ongoing contribution from them as well.  In fact, we could petition other businesses for support.  Perhaps all of the cards could be sent to you and you could then include a note listing the contributors for that month's minutes. 

Well, now there IS an easy way to bundle our goodwill on behalf of Democrats. Nick, who helped lead the Sinclair boycott, has set up an easy way to capture our donations. So far his collected donations were able to buy over 20,000 minutes of long distance for our wounded soldiers.

He provides cards with a True BLUE message for the wounded along with receipts for the Costco cards. Donate here from his PayPal account

The more people brainstormed on the idea, the more they wanted to give. (Even Bettina's Rotary Club has joined in!)

From Elaine in No VA again:

We could have a holiday card party for the troops at a local restaurant where everyone brings one box of cards, a pen for signing them, and we have some beers and good food at the same time.  Then maybe 3-4 of us could deliver them to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical. If 25 people are interested and bring a box of 20 cards = 500 cards. I was thinking of maybe the week of 12/6 or 12/13 and deliver them Sat 12/18. Tysons Bertucci's is centrally located and across the street from my office building where there is free parking.  They have a big bar area, tables, and good food.   Other recommendations are welcome.   Any interest?

That address, again, to send phone cards of any amount:

 Medical Family Assistance Center
 Walter Reed Medical Center
 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
 Building 2, Third Floor, Room 3E01
 Washington, DC 20307-5001

We have the POWER to make a difference in this world -- even if we lose our elections...

Originally posted to geri on Wed Nov 17, 2004 at 02:34 PM PST.

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