Group 'Adopts' Troops to Show Gratitude

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2007 - Connecting supportive Americans with deployed troops keeps one Colorado-based support group busy.

"In the last two years and eight months, we have grown to 16,000 registered supporters," said Ann Johnson, founder of Adopt A US Soldier. But that number doesn't accurately represent the volume of volunteers, she added.

"Many schools, synagogues, churches, companies and organizations are counted as one in our system, and yet the supporters are many more," she explained.

And they don't just live in the United States. Johnson said Adopt A US Soldier has supporters in 52 countries. "It's a very important reality that many countries support and are appreciative of the U.S. soldier," she said.

The number of troops that receive care packages of snacks, entertainment, hygiene and comfort items is a little under-reported as well, Johnson said. Before July 2005, 3,000 servicemembers had been "adopted."

"The numbers now must be (near) 10,000 or closer to 15,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen," Johnson said. "One soldier will sign up his unit, platoon or company."

Johnson started Adopt A US Soldier in July 2004 when her son, Paul, was first deployed to Iraq. She asked everyone she knew to help support his company. She set out to adopt 175 soldiers, a number that seemed daunting. But then local media got wind of what she was doing and ran a spot on Jan. 10, 2005.

"It got such a huge response," Johnson said. And so did she, in the form of 600 e-mails from supporters wanting a servicemember to write to. That was just the first day after the news spot aired.

The organization has grown from there. Adopt A US Soldier now has 12 core volunteers and 11 volunteers in supporting roles nationwide.

Adopt A US Soldier is hoping for even more exposure as a new supporter of the Defense Department's America Supports You program. America Supports You connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad. The group also would benefit from any networking its affiliation with America Supports You can provide, Johnson said.

"We have thought (about) having welcome-home parties," she said. "And having a welcome home for (3,000 to 5,000), we could use all the help we could get."

*Related Sites:*
Adopt A US Soldier  [ ]
Group 'Adopts' Troops to Show Gratitude [ ]