Supporting Our Military During The Holiday Season

Christmas / Chanukah Season - Support The Troops

Every year, the holiday season comes fast upon us and you should consider mailing your cards and gifts, especially to loved ones overseas this year. Military members still look forward to getting letters and receiving packages in mail call. Although there are fewer Soldiers in remote areas of Afghanistan and other countries, there are still some in outposts all over the world where the military patrols that don't have Internet access and these military members especially look forward to mail call.

If you want to make the holiday season a little brighter for a forward deployed military member, mail it early - even before Thanksgiving. 

During the Holidays, the volume of letters and packages increases due to gifts being sent by spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, family and friends. In addition to that, care packages are especially popular. Individuals, communities, corporations and non-profit organizations show their appreciation to our Service members and our Military Families by packing up care packages for deployed service members. Care packages are always a welcome treat for our deployed service members, especially during the holidays when they are away from home. Thoughts and acts of kindness from others for our military families at home are also appreciated.

CARE PACKAGES

Citizens desiring to send care packages, cards and letters to deployed servicemembers are encouraged to identify troops through family and friends.

Individuals may also partner with a non-profit organization. These organizations have direct contact with many of the servicemembers and units deployed and can tell you about desired items and shipping frequency.

NOTE –  The U.S. Postal Service stopped accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq as of November 17 that year.

However, after that date, Service members assigned to COM Iraq / OSC (Office of Security Cooperation) are still able to receive and send letters and parcels through the Department of State (DPO -Diplomatic Post Office) mail locations in Iraq. Still the same postage as APO and FPO - see link for more information on postage. 

HOLIDAY CARDS AND LETTERS

Safety and security reasons no longer allow packages to be addressed to “Any Soldier” or to an entire base in general. The American Red Cross is sponsoring a national “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign to receive and distribute holiday cards to servicemembers, veterans and their families in the United States and abroad. The card campaign includes those working and receiving care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Every card received during this campaign is screened for hazardous materials and then reviewed by Red Cross volunteers working around the country. The deadline for having cards to the P.O. Box is December 6th. They ask the you observe the guidelines to speed up the reviewing process. Check the website for guidelines of how to address the notes and what you can / cannot send. All holiday greetings should be addressed and sent to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

GETTING YOUR PACKAGE THERE ON TIME

To get mail to a Soldier by Christmas at APO/FPO/DPO addresses the latest a package can be sent to arrive on time is Dec. 17. To send them earlier -- and pay less -- senders can put them in the mail by Dec. 10, and pay for either 1st Class or Priority mail.

Priority mail to APO/FPO/DPO AE 093 must be sent by Dec. 3.

The deadline for Parcel Post to all locations mentioned is Nov. 12.

All classes of mail addressed to FPO/APO addresses must use the nine-digit ZIP code to ensure delivery. Mail not addressed correctly will be returned to the sender as undeliverable. Do not place the name of the country in the address as the APO - AE is sufficient.

It is recommended that customers check with their local civilian or military post office for information on size restrictions and the possible need for customs declaration forms.

RESTRICTIONS

Customers are advised that certain mail restrictions apply and some items cannot be mailed. Examples include switchblade knives, pornography, controlled substances, and explosive or incendiary devices. If in doubt as to what can or cannot be sent through the mail, contact your local civilian or military post office.

Some other tips include choosing a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents, and ensuring that old labels and markings on used boxes are covered.

Senders should also be sure to use adequate tape to seal their packages, and reinforce the seams with two-inch wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape.

As a final note, customers are cautioned that packages must not be mailed in boxes that have markings related to any type of hazardous material, such as bleach, alcohol, or cleaning fluids. Parcels found by the U.S. Postal Service with such markings or labels on the outside of the box will not be processed.

THANKING OUR VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES

Our Military Families serve too, and you can send them a message of thanks by visiting the USO’s Thanks From Everywhere page and let our Servicemembers, Veterans and Families know they are appreciated. You can also remember our hospitalized veterans in local VA medical centers.

COMMUNITIES SHOWING APPRECIATION

Little Patriots Embraced, a non-profit based in St. Louis, is providing toys for military children. They currently have more than 6,400 children on their waiting list.

Red Cross - Holidays for Heroes

Operation Shoebox - Over a million gifts sent and received by deployment military members.

Operation Gratitude

Operation Homefont’s TriState Chapter allows communities in the New York/NewJersey/Connecticut area to show their appreciation for military families through their “Adopt a Family” program.

Trees for Troops has been sharing the holiday spirit with our Servicemembers and Military Families since 2005, sending an average of 17,000 Christmas trees per year to more than 60 installations in the US and overseas.