By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2009 - Deployed and hospitalized service members are expected to make about 120,000 calls home this Veterans Day, and it won't cost them one thin dime.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization is once again offering "Free Call Day" through its Operation Uplink program. USAA, which offers financial services to service members, is sponsoring the day of free phoning, which is expected to total some 1 million minutes.
"We are very pleased to join forces with USAA, an association recognized as a devoted friend and advocate of the military community, to offer a special Veterans Day Free Call Day," said Dan Shea, director of the VFW Foundation. "Calling home, even for a few brief minutes, is a tremendous morale boost for our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, and helps families stay connected despite deployments."
Service members can visit one of nearly 900 Internet cafes in Iraq and Afghanistan between midnight and 11:59 p.m. Iraq time to place their free call home. Callers will need a SPAWAR prepaid personal identification number. The PINs can be obtained by visiting the SPAWAR site, http://www.oif.spawareurope.net/index.htm. SPAWAR is a contractor that provides voice-over-Internet phone service for deployed forces.
In other locations where a PIN number has been requested, the free calls also will be available at hospitals and morale, welfare and recreation service centers on bases worldwide. Users will have to make their calls between the same hours Iraqi time, as well.
Internet café managers may have a PIN available for non-account holders to use on Nov. 11 only.
"At USAA ... it is our privilege to support the VFW's Operation Uplink, which gives [service members] an opportunity to hear their loved ones' voices, helping ease the burden of separation that military service often requires," said retired Navy Rear Adm. John Townes, vice president of military affairs for USAA. "As we expand our business to serve many more military veterans, we look forward to additional opportunities to work with the VFW to help those who serve our nation as well as those who have served."
The VFW launched Operation Uplink in 1996. It has contributed more than 105 million minutes of free calling time to U.S. service members. The program works exclusively with DRS Technical Services to provide the Free Call Day program.