Thousands of members of the United States military are preparing to spend yet another year far away from their families while unselfishly serving their country. But you can make your appreciation known by sending them a little Christmas cheer via snail mail. Several charities and organizations have launched Christmas card drives to deliver Americans' well-wishes overseas.
The American Red Cross conducts its Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign on a local level, so contact your nearby Red Cross office to find out details. Most chapters will have events where you can make cards they'll send to soldiers, veterans and their families around the world. If you'd rather drop off cards you've already made, you can do that too -- just make sure not to include any items like calling cards or gifts. Glitter is also forbidden because it could hurt someone in a hospital recovering from an injury.
Hugs for Soldiers is accepting care packages and Christmas cards through Nov. 29 via mail -- Hugs for Soldiers, P.O. Box 2887, Duluth, GA 30096 -- or by dropping off at Duluth First United Methodist Church. Christmas cards have to be able to fit into a gallon-sized Ziploc and should not be in sealed envelopes. Glitter is also prohibited. For care packages, service members particularly enjoy microwave popcorn, granola bars, ramen noodles, socks and stockings. Hugs for Soldiers also accepts monetary donations to help with shipping the gifts overseas.
Valiant Veterans has sent out more than 1.75 million cards in the past six years. Send cards with five-sentence-minimum messages inside in unsealed envelopes to Operation Christmas Cards, 867 Grafton St. #10 #2, Worcester, MA 01604. Children's drawings and pictures are welcome. If you'd rather send money, you can sponsor a $17 box full of 400 cards for soldiers.
“Some soldiers don’t have families to send them stuff -- they’re on their own. When they get a care package they feel loved and appreciated,” Annette Fazenbaker, the co-founder of Operation Soldier Smiles, told the Alamogordo (New Mexico) Daily News. "It just seems like the need is unending."
You can also send cards to The Art of Encouragement in Oklahoma or John Welter Jr. in Pennsylvania, and they'll pass them along. Missed the deadline? Send a thank-you email to the troops at any time on the United Service Organizations website.