color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: CHRISTMAS PACKAGES, HOLIDAY PACKAGES, MAILING DATES, GUIDELINES FOR THE MILITARY TROOPS

Sunday, November 09, 2008

CHRISTMAS PACKAGES, HOLIDAY PACKAGES, MAILING DATES, GUIDELINES FOR THE MILITARY TROOPS

Pulling this and updating from my 2007 post... (which was from 2006... and 2005... -- it's a classic!!)

my site meter is filled with people looking for ideas of things to send the troops. TIME'S AWASTIN' -- 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, Marine, Sailor or Airman 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 or do receive 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. HOWEVER, the American Red Cross has a program this year which allows people to send Holiday greetings and well-wishes to service members -- even if you don't know their names! HERE is that information ...

Also, please check with your local Veterans hospital or Veterans Center... they all have programs for the holidays (consider volunteering!! Our veterans love company!)


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.
  • For packages, print on one side only with the recipient’s address in the lower right portion ZIP Codes 093XX and 964XX are currently unavailable for electronic labels. AND DON'T FORGET the Customs forms.
  • Place a return address label inside the package.
  • The earliest deadline is for troops that are serving in the Iraq [and] Afghanistan area,” said Al DeSarro, spokesman for the western region of the U.S. Postal Service. “You want to send all your holiday mail and packages [to those areas] by Dec. 4.”

Here are all the USPS mailing dates and HERE is info on the mailing process and helpful hints (including about the DISCOUNT for packages to military addresses (APO/FPO)

Now for the goodies stuff:

HOLIDAY & CHRISTMAS PACKAGES FOR SOLDIERS

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Christmas Stockings.
  • Individual packets of hot chocolate, cider or hot soup mix…
  • Candy (bite sized, individually wrapped, all kinds -- any kind)
  • AT&T Phone Cards (keep in mind that these cards are sold in minutes but calls from Iraq & other places are charged in "units" which are really just multiples of minutes -- so buy cards with LOTS of minutes. You can check out the pre-paid cards and the "unit" charges HERE
  • Hand held games (battery games with batteries, please)
  • Small puzzle books, coloring 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
  • DO NOT SEND Home baked goods unless you know the soldier/Marine personally (I understand that soldiers are advised to discard home baked goods from strangers -- for safety reasons. ) If you are sending baked goodies, pack brownies and cakes in bread slices or package in tins and wrap in plastic wrap -- vacuum sealing works GREAT (but freeze your cakes/breads, etc. FIRST or the vacuum will crush it! Plus it stays fresher!)
  • Army & Air Force Exchange Service
  • 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.
  • Garland
  • Shatterproof ornaments (Kohls, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target all sell these)
  • Tinsel
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • small pillows
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 -- our most favorite Angel!!)

HERE is the link to my 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
AND
THE SOLDIERS WILL HAVE FUN OPENING THEM!!

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Now for some practical suggestions:

Use FLAT RATE BOXES from the US Postal Service. These cost $10.95 (I think that's what they cost now) 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!!) Postage rates to APO and FPO are at DOMESTIC mailing rates -- not international rates... so if you're just sending a card/s it's regular First Class Postage.

Don't forget the Customs Forms:
  • every package to Iraq or Afghanistan 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.
  • Mail Early!!
  • 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
  • alcoholic beverages
  • 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 -- THAT IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOUR CAR MAGNET -- AND DO JUST ONE THING FOR OUR TROOPS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON... JUST ONE THING.

My friend Chuck (aka Major Z) says, "Don't feel like you have to go overboard on huge care packages, or spend lots of money. A simple "We are thinking about you, and we support you and your mission, and wish you were home with us" is sufficient. The most important thing is for the soldier to know that Mr. and Mrs. America really do know he's there, and that they care about him and what he's doing.

PS Feel free to link away... copy & paste this... email this... print this. Spread the word!

And feel free to add suggestions and tips in the comments !!

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5 Comments:

At 11/10/2008 2:24 AM , Blogger Stacy said...

Thanks for the info and I'll be linking to you.

The large flat rate box is $12.something. I was at the post office when my neighbor mailed off her packages the other day.

~Stacy

 
At 11/10/2008 11:03 AM , Anonymous Eric Itzkowitz said...

My name is Eric Itzkowitz, and I wanted to let you know about Operation Phone Card, which allows military and civilian support personnel to access exclusive military phone card discounts on prepaid phone cards (including AT&T and MCI).

Essentially, they can send phone card discounts to themselves, family, and friends and as many times as they'd like. There is also a Hero of the Week contest, and civilians can donate a phone card to anybody, which will be sent via email.

 
At 11/11/2008 10:39 AM , Blogger K said...

Sending phone cards to our troops is a GREAT idea.

 
At 11/11/2008 6:06 PM , Blogger Autrice DelDrago said...

I'm going to use some of your information for a broadcast tonight, and send people your way, if you don't mind. Your information is perfect and the word needs to be spread.

~ Autrice
www.tinkerscafe.com

 
At 12/19/2008 11:04 PM , Blogger Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Susan

http://www.car-insurance-choices.com

 

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