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Yuletide Reminder: Cards and Letters Mean Everything – 'Tis the Season for Writing to Our TroopsBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Christmas-time can be bittersweet or painful for some of our troops deployed in war zones. Some don't have families, or don't have families who care enough or have enough disposable income to give them support. Receiving a card or letter through the mail from anyone—getting a holiday morale boost and a "small slice of home"—can make a tremendous difference in a soldier's state of mind.
If you want to write to a few soldiers, definitely check out the website AnySoldier.com. This site is well organized and updated daily; it provides up-to-date contact information about sending cards, letters, and care packages to currently deployed troops. If you've not ever been on this site before, be sure to read all the sections—the sacred do's and dont's, if you will—before making the commitment to support a member of the military. AnySoldier also webmasters the sites AnyMarine.com, AnySailor.com, and AnyAirman.com. There are other good troop support sites out there, too, from which you can choose. You can conduct a search in Google or Yahoo or any other search engine site for their locations. So far, I've been very satisfied with the site's functionality and information from AnySoldier et al.
Save Money on Holiday CardsBoxes of Christmas cards range in price from a few bucks to the price of one small bag of groceries. Therefore, it makes sense to be frugal so that you can save money and send as many cards as possible. Stock up on discounted cards after the holidays, taking advantage of those 50-percent (up to 90-percent) savings on boxed holiday cards. Many discount and dollar stores also have a satisfactory selection of inexpensive boxes of cards at different times of the year.
But, before you rush out and spend any of your hard-earned cash, you can also get them for free.
A few years ago, I uploaded a request to my city's Freecycle site, asking Freecycle members for any unused Christmas cards to send to our troops. Too often, I overbuy... those after-Christmas sales do it to me time and again. Each year, I always seem to have a few cards leftover. Doing this for a number of years can lead to having 10, 20, 30, or more perfectly good Christmas, Hannukah, or other holiday cards that don't match the ones you're sending this year or, you may just want to get rid of the excess clutter but don't want to throw perfectly good cards in the garbage. I had extras, but not enough.
So, I suspected that other people in my area had a similar dilemma with extra Christmas cards. I put out the request for cards to send to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and was bombarded by people who had vast amounts of unused and unwanted new Christmas cards to donate. They were thrilled to help out our soldiers—I was thrilled to not have to buy boxes of yuletide cards. Three years later, I'm still working earnestly to use up all those cards—I received about 1,000! I was also given assorted birthday, get well, sympathy, anniversary, and patriotic cards. I've bundled many of these up with their envelopes and sent them in care packages to soldiers for them to have cards to mail to their family and friends.
My own family members and friends also heard about my mission, and they pitched in, giving me brand-new boxes of cards and myriad orphaned cards. It was awesome. I've not had to buy any cards myself since I started doing this three years ago. I figure once I run out, again I'll post a request on Freecycle.
Another way to get free cards is to approach a Sunday School teacher, Girl Scout or Boy Scout leader, daycare center director, homeschooling organizer, or other charity or youth-oriented leader and ask him or her if their children would like to create cards to send. Many are looking for age-appropriate service projects to do, and this may be just the thing they'll jump at doing.
Likewise, senior centers may be receptive to helping you out. Many of the elderly folks living in senior centers have too much idle time on their hands and would love to do something for our troops that isn't physically or monetarily demanding. Many are creative and would love making cards. This could be a long-term craft project that gives them pride and satisfaction and a chance to demonstrate their patriotism. Look into other opportunities in your community. Just be sure to approach them a few months in advance so that they can work it into their schedule. Starting during the late spring or early summer gives ample time for many cards to be made.
What Should I Write?
OK, so now you know how to get inexpensive or free Christmas cards and a list of names of troops to send them to, but you're not sure what to write in the cards.
Follow your heart. Anything supportive that is from the heart is perfect. Think about your own child or nephew or grand-daughter or husband or sister or friend who could be (or is) deployed overseas in the war zone. What do you think he or she would like to read in a card from an American stranger? Something uplifting, something heartfelt.
Absolutely NO wimpy sympathy, NO politicking, NO bleeding hearts junk. These heroes chose to defend our nation, and they are proud of what they do. If you don't agree with the war, this is NOT the forum to express it. Be supportive always. Let them know how important they are to you, how much you appreciate their patriotism and service. Also, for some of our troops, their surroundings are bleak and humor is a rare commodity in the arena in which they work. So, adding something funny goes a long way and is perfect for boosting morale. Go ahead and include a funny anecdote about your family or your dog or your boss would be appropriate. Any clean jokes are good (save any risqué ones for those troops who do write back to you and you know them well enough that they won't be offended). Jokes poking good-natured fun at the military (especially commanding officers) are a HUGE hit with enlisted folks, believe me.
Our family sends out at least 100 Christmas cards to our deployed troops each year, so I learned the hard way that personalizing each card by hand is next to impossible—unless I started in July (which I always plan to do, but have yet to accomplish). So, I include a short printed note from the computer and just sign the card with a short holiday greeting line. I've provided a sample of this year's letter below; you're welcome to use it as a template or any way you deem fit, should you want to use it. I also include my email and home addresses (I've excluded them in the sample), should that soldier or Marine or airman or sailor want to write back. But it's never expected, and always joyous when it happens.
I've formatted the letter with small enough font so that two letters will fit on one side of a sheet of printed paper. I print them out, then cut them in half horizontally, using less paper and saving money as a result. The smaller-size letter makes folding and inserting into the cards much easier and quicker.
A Sample Christmas Note to Include in Your Troop Holiday Cards
Here's a copy of the letter I sent this past Christmas. Feel free to use any of it that you choose, or let it serve as a catalyst for your own creative ideas.
Holiday greetings to you—deck the halls and hang the mistletoe! Although, we're sure finding any mistletoe in the theater this time of year would be quite a challenge. Likewise difficult would be finding any peppermint eggnog or ten lords a-leaping... more like ten insurgents a-leaping, right? (LOL)
You're now armed with solid information. Charge forth and make a difference in the lives of some of our deployed heroes. Send someone a bit of yuletide cheer, even though they are miles away and you will probably never meet. They are giving so much to America, to you and your family, sacrificing so much for all of us. Let them know you appreciate it and that you care. If you're interested in sending care boxes to troops, but don't know how, read this article on what items can or cannot be sent or this one on how to properly pack a military care package for shipping to the war zone. Both articles have valuable, practical information if you've not ever sent a letter or package overseas to a soldier.
Love is the greatest of gifts you can give anyone. And, it will only cost you your time and a postage stamp.
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Send It Secured: How to Properly Pack Your Morale Box for Troops
Email from a US Soldier in Iraq during Christmas 2008
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