Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pen pal opportunities exist for deployed, overseas Marines


Sgt. Mike Camacho

Lance Cpl. Padgett E. Vergabay takes a look at the pen pal program's Web site. Vergabay says she found the Web site simple to use. Any Marine deployed or stationed overseas can sign up for an electronic pen pal at: http://www.blackbeltacademy.biz/usmc/marines/index.cfm. Vergabay is a clerk with Camp Services aboard Camp Kinser.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Hundreds of devoted and benevolent Americans are signing up to become volunteer pen pals for a program created to show support to Marines either deployed or stationed outside the United States.

The program, aimed at assisting those who want to show their support to the troops, links Marines with pen pals through e-mail and benefits both the Marine and pen pal.

"In Fallujah, (Iraq), many Marines didn't feel that the majority of the American people were behind them," said Staff Sgt. Stacey Henderson, traffic management chief, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, who recently returned from deployment. "While most of them received mail from family members and friends, something like this pen pal program could really give them that missing piece of support not seen or felt."

The service is completely free to all parties, and registration is simple. Interested Marines can register by submitting their information on the pen pal Web site at: http://www.blackbeltacademy.biz/usmc/marines/index.cfm.

For volunteers wanting to sign up to become pen pals with Marines, the process is the same. Except, the Web address is slightly different. Volunteers can sign up at: http://www.blackbeltacademy.biz/usmc/volunteers/index.cfm.

After registering, an automatic confirmation e-mail will be delivered with the name and e-mail address of the pen pal.

The program originated at NASA as an unofficial effort to support one Marine unit, Marine Attack Squadron-542, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The program quickly grew and is now available to all Marines deployed or stationed overseas.

Compassionate stories have emerged of many volunteers' kindheartedness.

For example, one deployed Marine wrote how she was upset about not being home for her daughter's birthday. The Marine's pen pal quickly led other generous and patriotic Americans to commence Operation Birthday and had birthday presents delivered to the Marine's daughter.

There have been other cases of the program helping Marines with local needs in Iraq and other places around the world.

Questions, concerns or comments about the program can be sent to the program administrator at: mailto:info@clearlaketaek wondo.com.