'Support' signs benefit military families

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   American Legion Post 145 in Bristol has come up with an idea it hopes will generate funds to provide assistance for local families who have members serving in the United States' war with Iraq.
   Michael "Doc" Murphy of Watauga, a Vietnam War veteran active in veterans issues and a member of Post 145, said the post is coordinating the sale of gold-and-black "Support Our Troops/Freedom Is Not Just Another Word" signs. The plastic signs display a yellow ribbon and list each branch of service, are approximately 2-1/2 feet by 2 feet in dimension, and come with a stand for display.
   Murphy said American Legion members recently went to Bristol Motor Speedway during the Food City 500 race and sold 850 signs. "There have been about 8,500 of them sold in that area. The guy that makes them is putting a quarter aside from each sign, and what it's going to is a special fund administered by the Legion.
   "Those that have been called up in reserve units from the local area, if we can find anybody from their family that is having a hard time with the car payment or the mortgage, or needs diapers for the baby or food in the 'fridge, they will donate to them," Murphy said.
   Each sign costs $5. Proceeds not only help needy families, but also help the local chapters of the American Legion and Purple Heart. "They've been going faster than they can run them off," Murphy said.
   "The feeling is, this isn't going to be a three-day war like Desert Storm; it's going to go on. And whether you support the president or the policy, the slogan out there is 'Support Our Troops.'"
   Funds are limited, according to Murphy, however, "we're projecting that more will come in. But while we've got these funds available, if we've got somebody in need in the 776th, I'd like to see them jump on it right away."
   Persons wanting to purchase signs, or families of military servicemen and women in this area who are in need of assistance, can contact Murphy at 542-3046.
   Donations also are being accepted to assist family members of the 730th Tennessee Army National Guard unit out of Gray, Tenn., and help is available for those families by contacting Family Readiness Coordinator Colleen Treadway at (423) 878-4672.
   Additionally, the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, in conjunction with the Army Family Liaison Office, has established a toll-free Family Assistance hotline (800) 833-6622. The Army Family Assistance Hotline is for use only by family members of soldiers on active duty and those in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve called to active duty.
   The mission of the hotline is to provide Army families caring support in the form of accurate information, useful resources, and helpful referrals related to family issues. The hotline will not be able to answer questions about casualties or soldiers wounded or missing in action, or any operational matters.
   Donations of support also can be made to one of the military relief societies:
   * Army Emergency Relief at http://www.aerhq.org/
   * Navy/Marine Relief Society at http://www.nmcrs.org/iraqwar.html
   * Air Force Aid Society at http://www.afas.org/
   * Coast Guard Mutual Assistance at http://www.cgmahq.org/
   * American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services at http://www.redcross.org/services/afes/
   * Fisher House at http://www.fisherhouse.org which supports families whose loved ones are being treated at military and Veterans Administration hospitals.