Putting this back on top and editing the title so that it matches more of the many, many searches by people looking for information...
To hell with that idiot woman in Massachusetts.... my sitemeter is filled with people looking for ideas of things to send the troops. I know I'm running late on this post this year -- SO GET GOING!!
First, I suggest that you make this a family project -- nothing better than to explain the sacrifices of the military to your children. It is also a GREAT group project -- Homeowners Associations, church groups, community groups, poker groups, reading and investment clubs...
Second, if you do not personally know a Soldier or Marine serving, go to any of these sites and adopt one (or a whole platoon!!) There are too many soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who do not receive any mail... and that's especially hard to take at the holidays.
I highly recommend each of the following organizations:
Third, if you have received that email about sending Christmas cards to "any wounded soldier" at Walter Reed, please don't. The program was discontinued a few years back because they do not have the staff or time to sort and screen all that mail... and those extra cards (however well-intentioned) delay the delivery of holiday cards and mail to these wounded soldiers from their family and friends. If you would like to do this, please check with your local Veterans hospital or Veterans Center... they all have programs for the holidays (consider volunteering!! Our veterans love company!)
11/29/07: Miss Ladybug says: You can send cards to wounded troops via Operation Holiday Thanks:
Operation Holiday Thanks
c/o E.D. Hill
Fox News Channel
1211 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
But do it SOON since they go to Fox and then to the wounded, so they need a little extra time!
Fourth mailing info & deadlines:
• Packages must be addressed to an individual service member. Mail cannot be delivered to “any service member.” Use the member’s full name, military organization or unit and APO/FPO address.
• Do not include the country name in any part of the address when using an APO/FPO address.
• Choose a box strong enough to protect its contents, and use plenty of cushioning material such as popcorn or newspapers.
• Consider using the Postal Service’s free Military Kit — eight boxes of three different sizes popular for mailing to military personnel, along with mailing labels, tape and U.S. Customs forms. Kits can be obtained by calling toll-free to (800) 610-8734. Choose option 1, and when a live agent responds, ask for Care Kit 4. This might come too late for Holiday mailing so stop by your local post office and ask for the boxes AND the Customs forms.
• Write the delivery and return addresses on one side of the package.
• Place a return address label inside the package.
If you missed the parcel post deadline (that was earlier this week), here are your options for getting mail to an APO/FPO address by Dec. 25 (subtract 21 days from these deadlines to ensure delivery in time for Hanukkah):
• Space Available Mail (SAM): Nov. 27.
• Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL): Dec. 4, except for ZIP codes starting with 093, which are all areas of contingency operations (Iraq and Afghanistan). The suggested deadline for those locations is Dec. 1.
• Priority Mail: Dec. 11 (093 ZIP codes, Dec. 4).
• First-class letters and cards: Dec. 11. (093 ZIP codes, Dec. 4).
• Express Mail Military Services: Dec. 18 (not available to 093 ZIP codes).
Now for the goodies stuff:
HOLIDAY PACKAGES FOR SOLDIERS
We all look forward to the holidays. We look forward to the comfort and happiness and nostalgia that the holidays bring and spending the time with our families. Imagine being thousands of miles away and having that day be like every other day... But you can make a difference to our soldiers...
This listing is certainly not comprehensive... use your imaginations -- if it's fun for you, it will be fun for soldiers and marines, sailors & airmen!
- Individual packets of hot chocolate, cider or hot soup mix…
- Candy (bite sized, individually wrapped, all kinds)
- AT&T Phone Cards
- Hand held games (battery games with batteries, please)
- Small puzzle books
- Small, signed Holiday cards from you and your families (include your name and address!)
- Cigarettes (no lectures, please. I don't smoke, but most soldiers we know do)
- Cigars (good ones!)
- Books (current titles are greatly appreciated)
- Magazines (cars, trucks, men's health, exercise, business, computing...)
- Microwave food items (popcorn, all-in-one pan microwave deserts, heat & eat soups, etc.)
- Cereal bars
- Granola Bars
- Home baked goods (pack brownies and cakes in bread slices or package in tins and wrap in plastic wrap
- Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Gift Cards
- Pre-paid gift cards or gift certificates from American Express, Visa, Amazon.com, or from specific stores - Best Buy, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, etc.) These soldiers have a range of things they need or want over the course of their deployments...
Holiday decorations. Look around your homes and see your most cherished reminders of the holidays... and replicate those for our troops.
- Shatterproof ornaments (Kohls, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target all sell these)
- Lights (small wattage)
- Small artificial trees
Cold weather items (it's cool there now -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Germany -- and getting colder).
- Stocking caps (black only)
- Long sleeve t-shirts -- (M, L or XL) but must be Army brown... Under Armour is preferred but also (less pricey) Dri-Release shirts (Soffee, Anvil, etc.) (but good luck finding them in brown). You can also order t-shirts and other deployment items at AAFES (click on the "Gift from the Homefront" icon in the right column!)
- Gloves (tactical gloves are preferred... which you can also find online or at gun stores or military or police supply stores)
- Lightweight fleece blankets.
DVDs, Music CDs... new releases are greatly coveted... and believe me, they pass them around and trade them so one DVD or one CD makes its way to a lot of soldiers...
Footballs, baseballs, baseball gloves, soccer balls, volleyballs...
Holiday Cards that they can send to friends and families back home (they do not need postage!) and ~K commented last year that she found sending boxes of Holiday Greeting Cards to be a huge success but also sent some All Occasion card boxes and they were just as appreciated.
Be sure to include your handwritten greetings... especially handwritten cards and notes from children!!
GO HERE for links to some of the favorite shopping places that the many thousands of Soldiers Angels like! So many useful things for our Troops (h/t to MaryAnn -- one of our most favorite Angels!!)
HERE is the link to the list of "regular" care package stuff for Our Guys that might give you some ideas!
Be sure to check the comments for additional suggestions!!
HAVE FUN PUTTING THE PACKAGES TOGETHER
THE SOLDIERS WILL HAVE FUN OPENING THEM!!!
Now for some practical suggestions:
Use FLAT RATE BOXES from the US Postal Service. These cost $8.95 to mail no matter how heavy you make the boxes (don't use this if you're sending lightweight things -- if you use these Flat Rate boxes stuff 'em as heavy as you can and get your money's worth!!)!
Don't forget the Customs Forms (every package to Iraq or Afghanistan -- zip code 093xx) MUST have one... fill them out as best you can BEFORE you get to the P.O. but the postal clerk will attach it for you. These are multi-part (self-carbon) forms that are a pain in the butt -- but necessary. You do not have to fill in the weight... and in the lower right corner it asks for instructions on what to do if the package cannot be delivered as addressed... tell them to direct delivery to another... and fill in "First Sergeant" and then the rest of the unit address for your soldier or the name & address of another soldier if you have more than one you have adopted.
Be aware that soldiers have a limit on the amount of "stuff" they can bring back so hold off sending priceless heirlooms and bulky items if your soldier is redeploying soon.
Finally, be aware of the RESTRICTIONS ON CONTENTS:
If you are sending to Iraq or Afghanistan, DO NOT SEND ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
obscene articles such as prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc.
pork or pork by-products
any matter depicting nude or semi-nude persons, pornographic or sexual items
unauthorized political materials.
If contraband is found in a package, the entire contents may not be delivered!
SHOW YOU CARE AND DO JUST ONE THING FOR OUR TROOPS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON...
JUST ONE THING...
(Congress, are you listening???)