Military for canceling Operation Dear Abby

Saturday, October 20, 2001

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Concerns over anthrax in the mail has prompted the Military Postal Service to recommend suspending Operation Dear Abby and another program that deliver letters of support and holiday greetings to soldiers.

Glenn Flood, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon is expected to make a decision about the programs over the weekend or early next week.

In an e-mail obtained by Kansas City, Mo.-based Universal Press Syndicate -- which distributes Dear Abby -- and given to reporters, Marine Corps Capt. Craig Erlanger of the Military Postal Service Agency said Operation Dear Abby and the military's Any Service Member Mail were canceled as of Tuesday. He said recent discoveries of mail tainted with anthrax demonstrated the programs' vulnerability.

But on Friday, Flood told The Associated Press that the cancellation's announcement was based on a recommendation to the Pentagon and was released prematurely.

Operation Dear Abby was started 17 years ago as a way to boost morale for troops away from family and friends during the holidays.

In the past, the column asked readers to send letters to a centralized address, and military officials distributed them at random to soldiers.

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