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SecaucusFats
01-01-2005, 11:36 AM
U.S. military hospitals flooded with gifts
ABC News ^ | 1/1/2005 | Associated Press

For the two principal military hospitals treating American troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been too much of a good thing this holiday season. So many gifts for injured troops and their families have poured into Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md., that they have run out of space and are asking well-wishers to give elsewhere.

Overwhelmed by thousands of items like CD and DVD players, quilts, toiletries, clothes and food not to mention huge stacks of prepaid phone cards Walter Reed this week urged people to wait until February or March to send items. An official at the naval hospital requested that contributions be postponed until March.

The public is instead encouraged to send money to other organizations that help injured service members and their families with needs such as transportation and living expenses.

"We are running out of space to store the items we receive, that's the real crux of the problem. And we have enough" to last through February, said Staff Sgt. Joseph Lee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Walter Reed's Medical Family Assistance Center, which looks after wounded soldiers and their families.

"It's a great problem to have," he added.

In Bethesda, gifts fill an office and its back room, a classroom and a warehouse, said Marine Cpl. Adam Jensen-Withey, who works with the Marine Casualty Services Branch that handles donations and welcomes injured troops back stateside.

At Walter Reed, Lee described a 40-by-60-foot storage room nearly filled to its 12-foot ceiling with gifts from across the country. Another office is filled with letters, many of them with phone cards.

Lee said space became scarce about two weeks ago as scores of phone cards arrived, many in response to a widespread e-mail soliciting them.

The naval center, which began running out of space around Thanksgiving, has "bins upon bins upon bins of phone cards," said Jensen-Withey.

Awash in a surplus of free phone minutes, both facilities are urging people to stop sending the cards.

Walter Reed is steering future donors to organizations such as the Walter Reed Society, the Fisher House Foundation and the American Red Cross.

Jensen-Withey said monetary donations are better off going to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, Soldiers' Angels, the Armed Forces Foundation and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

More information about making contributions is available through the Defense Department's http://www.defendamerica.mil and http://www.americasupportsyou.mil

SF