As the mother of a Marine infantry lieutenant, I was blessed to have my son home during the Christmas holidays each of the four years that he was in the Marine Corps. Even his deployment to Iraq during the invasion began in January and returned him home in one piece the following fall. We were very lucky to be able to celebrate the holidays with him each year, and I am looking forward to Christmas this year with him home – this year with a fiance and a February wedding on the horizon.
Not every family is as lucky as we were. It is hard on the families to have a member of the family away from home during the holidays – and it is even worse for the member of the family away from home. The holidays can be one of the most difficult times of the years for military personnel serving away from home. The simplest gesture—a call, a card or a gift can make a huge difference in their morale.
There are countless organizations that help facilitate the gift giving process, and here is a guide to help you select a group to help you send something to the troops this holiday season.
Holiday Mail for Heroes Program
The Red Cross will accept holiday greetings through Friday, Dec. 7. If you live near me in Montgomery County Maryland, you can visit the Red Cross at the following address:
Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
The organization offers the following tips to help your letter pass through the screening process:
- Ensure that all cards are signed.
- Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals cannot be delivered through this program.
- Only cards are being accepted. Do not send or include letters.
- Do not include email or home addresses on the cards: the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
- Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos: these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
- Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
- If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place them in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
The popular photo card website is offering to send up to 1.5 million cards to the troops. Visit their Facebook page where you can customize a card with images, photos and text. Shutterfly will then send them to the troops.
In a bit of twist, Sears’ “Help a Hero” campaign seeks to assist deployed soldier in sending gifts to their families at home. Their website features a wish list of practical items such as clothes, toys and decorations.
This organization collects donations of airline frequent flyer miles to help injured military personnel travel home from a medical center or enable their family members to visit them. Many major airlines are participating in this program visit their website for more details.
With a number of different programs, Operation Gratitude works year-round to send more than 100,000 care packages filled with entertainment, snacks, and more to troops overseas. Currently, they cite the following items as being “in urgent need”:
- Personal letters
- Hand-made scarves and para-cord bracelets
- Beanie babies/Webkinz/Trolls
- Financial donations to help defray the production and shipping costs.
For 2012, this organization’s theme is “Seasonal Sights, Sounds and Sweets.” They are looking for donations of DVDs, photos, signed banners, handmade paper garlands with messages, signed holiday cards, felt stockings, ornaments, artificial trees & wreaths, lights, fleece blankets, small menorahs, dreidels and any small gifts or stocking stuffers.
Thanks to the Chevy Chase Patch for these great suggestions.