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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Lyrebird: "For Our Soldiers"

An Iraqi army soldier stands guard at a vehicle checkpoint at the entrance to Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Sunday, March 4, 2007. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers entered the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Sunday in the first major push into the area since an American-led security sweep began last month around Baghdad. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)

What's bigger than a breadbox, or smaller than a breadbox, and better than a whole heap of magnetic yellow ribbons?

Thanks to Lyrebird for reminding us what we can do to help our young men and women serving overseas - as well as at home - THANKS LYREBIRD!

To let Steve know that attempted culinarily-mediated distance healing is not the only way I'm keeping him in mind, I pushed a little bit further through my inertia about taking actions to support the people in harm's way in Bush and Cheney's war, starting off with the American ones. Thought I'd compare notes with readers here to see what other good avenues you've found.

Here I'm concentrating the Americans... Although this does not always (perhaps not even often?) reach the Iraqis directly, it does seem to me that pushback from soldiers and high-ranking military officials has been one of the few cords slowing the headlong progress of the Iraq-war machine, as ironic as that may be. maintains a database of soldiers who are willing to receive and distribute mail to others around them who aren't receiving much of it. (Post-anthrax scares, the military discontinued direct anonymous delivery of letters and care packages.)

If you do want to gather up some snacks (seems like bars and SlimJims are popular), they include very detailed instructions on how to prepare items to ship, including this small reminder of what conditions must be like:

Do NOT, for any reason, or in ANY amount, include food items in a care package with ANY hygiene items or chemicals of any type. If you want to send a care package, make it only food items or only non-food items. You would not believe how even factory sealed cookies taste when they have lived together in the same package with bath soap for a month in 120 degree heat... We get requests all the time that folks NOT send soaps, bug repellent, dryer sheets, air fresheners, detergents, deodarants, (getting the idea?) in the same box as food items. Trust me, a good smelling arm pit is a nice thing, but a cookie that tastes like one will not improve a Soldier's morale...

Receiving soldiers indicate what items would be most appreciated in their unit, and you can search around for people coming from your state, people who are stationed in other countries than Iraq, you name it.

AnySoldier is just one of several services have sprung up to try and reach troops who don't have a big stream of family or community support; Operation Gratitude is another, but if I've understood correctly, none of their packages or letters will go out until July 4th or so. TreatsforTroops works year-round from what I can tell.

Some soldiers put in requests for little bean-bag animals to give to kids. Sure, the best present of all would be to get our troops out of there, begin reparations, reclaim foreign-policy sanity... but I still care for our kids that are over there. We all get more than one kind of thing done every day, pretty much. Except when healing up is the one thing...

Keep at it, Steve, and may those doctors give you the best they've got!

This week I've sent two letters. What have you found? What about supporting troops that are coming home and making the transition back to life Stateside?

- posted by Lyrebird

UPDATE: We heard from Carolyn of Operation Gratitude - here's her clarification on this post:

Hi Steve and Jen,
Thank you for mentioning and linking Operation Gratitude on your blog-I am very appreciative.

I did want to clarify our shipping schedule, as there appears to be a misunderstanding. We assemble and ship packages during two major campaigns each year: Our Patriotic Drive kicks off during the Memorial Weekend (May 26-27) and continues through early July; our Holiday Drive starts during the Veteran's Weekend in early November and continues through mid-January. We sent almost 58,000 packages (each addressed to a different individual service member) during our recent Holiday Drive, and expect to send at least 60,000 packages during our upcoming Patriotic Drive and another 60,000 during our Holiday Drive 2007. While we concentrate our assembling during those periods, we always keep a store of packages ready to ship at any time--if we receive requests from units or troops in between the Drives, we are delighted to send at that time.

Thank you again for your support and interest. If you have any questions about our program, I will be happy to answer them.

Carolyn Blashek

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