Supporting Our Military This Holiday Season

Christmas 2013

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Photo/Spc. Shawn M. Cassatt.

Christmas is fast upon us and now is the time to consider mailing your cards and gifts, especially to loved ones overseas. You may find it more convenient to send of an e-card, Skype or chat, but a Soldier really wants to receive something that they can put their hands on. They 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 that don't have Internet access and these Soldiers especially look forward to mail call.

It would be difficult on you and your soldier if you mailed your package or letter off too late for him/er to receive it for the Holiday.

This time of year 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 Servicemembers and our Military Families by packing up care packages for deployed servicemembers. Care packages are always a welcome treat for our deployed servicemembers, especially during the holidays when they are away from home defending our freedoms. 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 – Because U.S. forces are coming home from Iraq by the end of 2011, 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, Servicemembers assigned to COM Iraq / OSC (Office of Security Cooperation) are still able to receive and send letters and parcels through the Department of State mail locations in Iraq.

 

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 following guidelines to speed up the reviewing process:

Ensure that all cards are signed.
Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not 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.

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 AE 090-092, 094-098, 340, or 962-966, the latest a package can be sent to arrive on time is Dec. 17 -- that means senders have to pay for Express mail. 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.

The deadline for SAM parcels for all locations mentioned is Nov. 26. SAM parcels are paid at the Parcel Post postage rate with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.

The deadline for PAL for all locations mentioned is Dec. 3. PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage.

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.

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.

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.

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