Mail for `Any Wounded Soldier' Returned or Thrown Out

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of holiday cards and letters thanking wounded American troops for their sacrifice and wishing them well never reach their destination. That's because they are returned to sender or thrown away unopened.

The Pentagon and the Postal Service have refused to deliver mail addressed simply to "Any Wounded Soldier" ever since the September 11th attacks and the anthrax scare. They're afraid terrorists or opponents of the war might send toxic substances or demoralizing messages. Now mail must be addressed to a specific member of the armed forces, and it's a rule that pains some well-meaning Americans this Christmas season.

Last season officials say as many as 450,000 pieces of mail not addressed to anyone in particular managed to reach Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The mail was returned or -- if they had no return address -- were thrown out altogether, because the hospital lacked the manpower to open and screen all the mail.

Some groups are offering to forward mail to the troops. Aides to Senator Jeff Sessions are offering to accept letters, screen them and get them to members of the armed forces.


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