I live my beliefs. I publicly praise the good and quietly advise against the bad. I believe a word of encouragement is never forgotten. So when I found several websites that suggested I should send a get-well card to a recovering American soldier care of Walter Reed Medical Center, I didn’t do as much research as I should have in my enthusiasm to help someone in need. I sent a card to the address given and waited a week; it was not returned. So I suggested to my Prayer Shawl Ministry that they, too, may want to do this; and gave them the address. I sent two more cards, one each Monday, and felt sure that, since they had not been returned, they must have reached a soldier.
A friend and fellow-prayer-shawl-member warned me that the DoD had a rule that letters and cards had to be addressed to a specific person. So, I did the research I should have done to begin with. Denise was correct.
An email campaign to send Christmas cards to injured soldiers began in October of 2007, hosted by the American Red Cross. After that program ended, supportive Americans continued what was really a good thing – but they didn’t have all the facts.
When the way we lived was forever changed on September 11, 2001, measures were put in place to protect our soldiers from possible terrorist attacks through all venues, including the US Postal Service. Unless the letter or package is addressed to a specific soldier, the card or letter would be destroyed unopened (this is why my letters were not returned) and the packages would be returned to sender or given to a charity if no return address was visible.
Specifically according to the US Postal Service, This includes the “Any Service Member, Any Wounded Warrior, Any Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine” mail program for military personnel. Mail to “Any Service Member” will not be delivered. This restriction applies to all classes and types of mail.
On the USPS Supporting Our Troops webpage, they state the following guidelines from the Department of Defense for addressing your mail to military and civilian personnel:
Use the service member’s full name.
Include the unit and APO/FPO address with the nine-digit ZIP Code.
Include a return address.
For packages, print on one side only with the recipient’s address in the lower right portion or print a postage-paid label online.
Remember Desert Storm and several ‘advice columnists’ who started letter-writing and support-the-troops campaigns? I became a penpal with a sergeant who – even today – exchanges emails and Christmas cards with me. It was wonderful. (He’ll never forgive me for the home-baked hardtack biscuits – made from a pioneer-wife recipe from the 1800’s – that I sent him. Or, should I say, his soldiers never will, because after three weeks in transit, they were still edible – and he shared them with his men.) I shared a lot of his letters with my students and my son and it changed us all for the better. Most of my students had never been out of our small southern town, but they all knew where Isaac was stationed.
I’m going to pursue this further. I’d like to find a way to get real cards and letters from real people into the hands of our troops. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!