As Lawrence residents relax today with turkey, family and football games, many will be thinking about friends, relatives and fellow Americans who are spending Thanksgiving halfway around the world.
And many of the men and women stationed in the Persian Gulf region will have received the message that people here are thinking about them through letters and packages that were mailed weeks ago in time for Thanksgiving.
"We sent over 80 Thanksgiving cards just to let them know that we're thinking about them," said Lisa Parsons, program coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, 1512 Haskell.
"The cards pertained to anything to do with Thanksgiving, and they were handmade," Parsons said.
The Boys and Girls Club was one of many local organizations that held letter-writing campaigns and other activities to wish some of the estimated 230,000 Americans stationed in the Middle East a happy Thanksgiving.
ONE OF THE servicemen, Army Pfc. Brian Murphy of Lawrence, has a special connection to members of a Lawrence junior high school class.
In 1981-82 Murphy was a student in Kathy von Ende's seventh-grade class at Central Junior High, 1400 Mass.
This year, Murphy's cousin, Corey Hopkins, 12, is a student in Ms. von Ende's seventh-grade class.
Corey and his classmates on two occasions have written letters to Murphy, who wrote them back and said holidays are an especially tough time to be in a foreign land.
"He said he wanted to be home by Thanksgiving, but that he didn't think he would be home for Christmas," Corey said.
Corey's classmates said soldiers stationed in the Middle East would be on their minds today.
And the students in the 20-member class worry that war won't be averted.
"He (Murphy) said it's not a matter of time when I get back it's a matter of time when we go in," said class member John Magnuson, 12.
"I think there's going to be a war," John said.
JOHN SAID the United States did the right thing by sending troops into Saudi Arabia after Iraq's President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
"Otherwise Saddam Hussein might decide to take over other countries in the Middle East," he said.
Another student, Adam Clark, 12, said "I think the U.S. should take a wait-and-see approach before we decide go in."
American troops are part of a multi-national force that has been deployed in the Persian Gulf region since the invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Murphy and other U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia may be able to call their families and friends in Lawrence this holiday weekend.
Fran Anderson, public relations manager for AT&T;'s Kansas City, Mo., regional office, said AT&T; is providing free 3-minute telephone calls through Tuesday for soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia.
"We had a similar program in October, and since then, we have dramatically increased the number of circuits available," she said.
Anderson said about 135,000 calls were made to the United States Oct. 3-10, when AT&T; last offered free telephone calls for military personnel in the Middle East.
FRIENDS AND families also may send a free facsimile to soldiers from various AT&T; fax centers in the Kansas City area.
Meanwhile, one Lawrence resident and Kansas University student, Gino DiSimone, says he will be thinking about U.S. soldiers today for two reasons.
"I'm a Navy veteran . . . and I have a personal issue with Iraq for invading Kuwait."
DiSimone, who served at international ports in the Navy from 1983 to 1988, says he knows what it's like to miss home support as a military person stationed overseas.
"I support them and I think most Americans support them, and I wanted them to know it," said DiSimone, a newspaper route driver who delivers the Journal-World and USA Today.
DiSimone in mid-October sent four 60-foot rolls of newsprint with about 1,000 signatures each to four Navy battle groups.
The long rolls of paper carried signatures and messages he collected locally to bolster the morale of Navy personnel during the Thanksgiving season.
DISIMONE ALSO said he has friends living in Kuwait that he hasn't heard from since it was invaded by Iraqi troops.
"I know their house has been ransacked. I haven't been able to find out if they are OK," he said.
Family members and friends of men and women stationed in the Middle East may call a national family support network at 1-800-786-0901. The network is sponsored by the American Legion.
Family support groups also have formed for members of individual military units in Kansas and elsewhere.
Patrick Dardis, facilities manager of the 317th Army Reserve Battalion at 21st and Iowa streets, said family members and friends may contact individual units for support.
"If a particular unit does not have a support group then I would encourage the family members of the unit to contact one another and start one," he said.
No local reserve units have been activated for duty in the Middle East, he said.
HOWEVER, SEVERAL Lawrence men and women who are members of non-local military units are stationed in the Middle East, or are scheduled to go.
Anyone wishing to write or send packages to soldiers in the Middle East may use the following address:
For Army and Air Force: Operation Desert Shield, APO N.Y. 09848-0006
For Navy and Marines: Operation Desert Shield, FPO N.Y. 09866-0006