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Woman Cut Off From Gis For Sharing Jokes Online Provider Drops Pen Pal Service When Army Complains Of E-Mail Sent To Troops

A woman whose Internet program matched up U.S. soldiers overseas with American pen pals has been cut off from “her troops” for sending them dirty jokes.

A U.S. infantry commander in Bosnia found the jokes offensive and disruptive and ordered Pat Dwigans to stop contacting his soldiers.

Dwigans said the publicity then led Prodigy to terminate her free account on Jan. 24. The online service accused her of violating member rules by transmitting pornography, she said.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. Nothing,” said Dwigans, a 60-year-old retired manager at a trucking company.

“I’m just trying to brighten the guys’ and gals’ lives.”

In 1995 she founded an “adopt-a-serviceperson” program that enabled people to send mail and e-mail to troops in Bosnia. It evolved into a network of 6,000 volunteers who used the Internet to communicate regularly with U.S. soldiers abroad, even sending them packages during the holidays.

Operation MALE - for Make A Life Enriched - included dispatches with news from home, sports scores, letters and jokes.

On Jan. 5, Dwigans received e-mail from Army Lt. Col. Victor Robertson ordering her to stop contacting his 2,500 soldiers in Task Force Eagle and the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division.

“We have received numerous e-mails from you … that contain grossly offensive ‘jokes,”’ Robertson wrote. “This material is counter to the environment that the U.S. Army strives to set for its soldiers and are unwelcome.”

Robertson attached several jokes delivered to his soldiers: One told of two homosexuals who were hanged by the Ku Klux Klan. Several others focused on sexual intercourse. Another included the lyrics to “The John Wayne Bobbitt Song,” sung to the tune of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“Your material is pornographic, racist, sexist and bigoted,” Robertson said.

Dwigans, who lives in the suburb of Greenwood, said Tuesday she did not read all the jokes gathered from volunteers before sending them.

She added, “It depends on how you look at it, whether they’re offensive or not.”

Prodigy spokesman Mike Darcy said the online service’s privacy rules prevent him from discussing an individual account.

But he said transmitting pornographic material can result in cancellation of membership.


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