Dear Abby advised to pull letters-to-troops initiative

WASHINGTON: The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA), a division

of the Department of Defense, has requested that syndicated writer Dear

Abby suspend the annual "Operation Dear Abby" campaign that asks readers

of the popular advice column to send letters of support to military

personnel over the holiday season.



DoD spokesman Glenn Flood said the letter-writing effort presented both

"logistical and security" problems in light of the increasing anthrax

scares and the deployment of military troops abroad. He added that a

final decision has not yet been made on whether the initiative will be

reinstated. In the short term, alternative ideas such as an e-mail-based

campaign are being considered.



Jeanne Phillips, who co-writes the Dear Abby column with her mother

Pauline, quickly complied with the MPSA's request. "As important as

emotional support for our men and women in the military may be," said

the younger Phillips, "their physical well-being is far more

important."



Phillips is asking readers to instead donate to local food banks.



This would have been the letter-writing campaign's 17th year, having

begun during the Vietnam War. Last year, the project collected more than

11,000 pounds of letters, with "millions" of people writing in,

according to Kathie Kerr, spokeswoman for Dear Abby publisher Universal

Press Syndicate.



Also suspended is the military's "Any Servicemember" letter campaign,

which allows the general public to send mail to random military

personnel. The letters primarily reach those serving in Bosnia.



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