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Troops in Afghanistan Receive Free Calling Cards

When you're thousands of miles from home, the voice of a loved one can lift your spirits like nothing else. Thanks to the American Red Cross, it will be easier for some troops in Afghanistan to make that connection.

The Collier County (Fla.) Chapter of the Red Cross sent a total of $7,500 in phone cards to Camp Mike Spann, located in the north of Afghanistan. The 500-minute cards are being distributed to service members stationed at remote Forward Operating Bases throughout the northern provinces of the country.

"The American Red Cross is doing its part in breaking the communication barrier for deployed troops," said Army Sgt. Maj. James Allen. "It provides prepaid phone cards to our fighting forces so that contacting loved ones, or taking care of business back home, becomes much easier. It alleviates a lot of stress that soldiers build up from knowing that they aren't able to contact key people in their lives."

In this case, the charitable gesture reached the Balk Province, where U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kelvin Carter is preparing to return home after serving a nine-month tour as a medical mentor to the ANA 209th Corps.

"I'm not exactly sure who will read this," said Carter, "but just know that we are appreciative of everything given to us. It's good to know that someone is thinking about us and our families and with the card, it's one less thing we have to worry about."

The donated calling cards can be used with personal cellular phones, thereby alleviating the need for service members to wait up to 30 minutes to use one of 10 public phones shared among nearly 2,000 troops at Camp Spann. Though troops with mobile phones can make stateside calls, the service can prove to be a costly option, one that many service members can't afford to choose often. Furthermore, some troops at remote FOBs do not have access to any public phones, limiting their choices.

With the majority of troops serving 12-month deployments, Carter acknowledges the positive impact that even the smallest gesture of kindness can make on his troops' morale.

"It's something about a package in the mail or a letter that will totally change a soldier's mood," Carter said. "To be honest, hearing someone say 'thanks for your service' has become as common as God Bless America," Carter said. "Not that it's bad, it just means so much more when someone actually takes the extra step to show that they support you."

Sandra Arnold, director of the Regional Command-North Public Affairs Advisory Team, contributed reporting for this story.