Until 9/11, there were two primary programs which allowed the general public to send mail to "any servicemember:" the Military Postal Service's "Dear Any Servicemember" program, which operated year-round, and the annual "Operation Dear Abby" program which supported troops with letters and cards from home during the holiday season.
Then that nut (or nuts) began sending out anthrax-infected letters, shortly after 9/11, and this resulted in the termination of both programs. The Pentagon was afraid that some nut (or nuts) would attempt to send harmful letters and packages to our military members involved in the fight against terrorism. DOD established a policy that all mail to deployed servicemembers must be addressed to a specific military member, and have his/her correct address (in essence limiting mail and packages to those sent by friends and family members).
Beginning in December 2007, Americans can now send holiday cards (between mid-November and mid-December) to deployed servicemembers and wounded warriors in military hospitals, through a special program administered by the American Red Cross, called "Holiday Mail for Heroes." Under this program, approved by the Pentagon, volunteers screen the cards for hazards and to ensure the contents are appropriate (no military "hate-messages" allowed).
Starting this fall and throughout the holiday season, the Red Cross is working with Pitney Bowes, a mail stream technology company, to collect and distribute holiday cards to American service members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families in the United States and around the world.
The process is very simple and takes no time at all - All you need is a pen and piece of paper to share your appreciation for the sacrifices members of the U.S. Armed Forces make to protect our freedoms The Holiday Mail for Heroes mail box is open and ready to receive for your cards. Please send all mail to:
Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Sending a “touch of home” to American men and women who serve our country is the perfect way to express your appreciation and support during the holiday season.
When taking advantage of this program, keep the following in mind:
- All cards must be postmarked no later than the announced date for that Holiday year. Visit the Red Cross website for this information, around mid-November each year).
- All cards must be signed.
- Please use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.
- Send only cards -- not long letters. Long letters delay the review process.
- Do not do not include email or home addresses on the cards. This program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
- Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos, as these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
Other Ways to Support the Troops
Other than the Red Cross's Holiday Card program, there are other ways you can show support for our troops during the holidays and year-round.
In 2004, the Pentagon established the America Supports You website, which lists more than 350 homefront groups that provide a variety of support for military members and their families.
Whether you want to send a care package to a servicemember, write an email or letter, donate airline miles to help reunite returning military men and women with their families, purchase a phone card for a servicemember, support scholarship funds or send support to wounded service members, the 350 non-profit citizen organizations can help you make it happen.
HOMEFRONT – If you’re looking for ways to cope with Holiday stress,
make the most of an out-of-cycle military relocation, stretch a tight budget or
explore unique travel opportunities exclusive to the military community; look
no further than the Military HomeFront Page.
MILITARY ONE SOURCE – Need to adjust the holiday budget, manage expectations or simply find affordable and unique ways to enjoy the Holiday? Check out Military One Source’s Holiday links for creative ways to make it possible.
TRACK SANTA’S JOURNEY! – Starting at midnight MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa as he makes all the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. MST, trackers worldwide can talk to a live phone operator to inquire about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations worldwide.
CARE PACKAGES – While you might not make the shipping deadline (Dec. 9) to have a care package to a deployed service member by Christmas, rest assured your thoughtfulness will still be appreciated Dec. 26, Jan 2 or any day spent away from home. If you’re interested in sending a care package to a service member overseas, look no further than the OurMilitary.mil care package page to find a way to get started.
TREES FOR TROOPS – Trees for Troops has been sharing the holiday spirit with service members 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.
THANKING OUR VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES – Our Military Families serve too, and you can send them a message of thanks! Visit the USO’s Thanks From Everywhere page and let our service members, veterans and families know they are appreciated. You can also remember our hospitalized veterans in local VA medical centers. No matter what time of year, members of the United States Military and their families appreciate your support!