More than 200,000 Americans are serving in the military overseas, and they deserve some holiday cheer, too. If you're at home in the United States and want to send love to the people protecting your country, you have several options leading up to Christmas. Schools, churches and nonprofits are already organizing donation drives.
“Everybody, I think, thinks about family more during the holidays than the rest of the year, and so to be without them is a little lonely feeling,” Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard told WTVM earlier this month. “In this digital age that we live in, to me, Christmas cards are one of the things that still resonate and mean something, especially the men and women overseas.”
Here are a few places you can send cards or good for military members this Christmas:
The American Red Cross will again host its Holidays for Heroes program, but, as in recent years, it's going local. Instead of sending cards to a national P.O. box, each local Red Cross chapter will have its own address. Identify your nearby office here and contact them for details.
If you're sending a card through the Red Cross, make sure you address it as "Dear Service Member, Veteran or Military Family Member," according to its website. And don't use glitter — though sparkly, the stuff can complicate some medical issues for wounded soldiers.
Facebook message Operation Christmas Cards for Troops Overseas to pledge a certain amount of cards and gifts by Nov. 21. They'll give you an address, and you'll send the package over by Dec. 9. Address cards to "any soldier" and include items like magazines and granola bars.
Send letters to A Million Thanks at 17853 Santiago Blvd., #107-355, Villa Park, CA 92861 or drop them off at these locations by Dec. 1 to have them mailed overseas by Christmas. The nonprofit encourages you to be kind, creative and positive in your messages.
Military Missions is again running its Operation S.E.N.D. program this year. Drop off Christmas cards addressed to "Dear Friend" at the nonprofit's Kentucky office or send to Military Missions Inc., 3650 Boston Rd., Suite 146, Lexington, KY 40514.
The group will be assembling the Christmas care packages Nov. 30. Attend or drop off items like puzzle books, hack sacks, hot cocoa mix, trail mix, socks or lip balm. If you can't make it out, you can send Military Missions $10 to cover shipping costs through PayPal here.
Hugs For Soldiers will accept donations until Nov. 26 at its shipping address, Duluth First United Methodist Church, 3208 Duluth Highway 120, Duluth, GA 30096. Suggested items include microwave popcorn packs, beef jerky, gloves, sunflower seeds and coloring books. The organization will assemble care packages Dec. 3.
If you're reading this too late to donate, don't forget you can always purchase a gift through United Service Organizations' WishBook. Packages start at $15 and include an e-card. Send a service member a comfort food package or fund a phone call home.