America Supports You: Groups Make it Easy to Send Holiday Wishes to Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2007 As the holidays draw near and shopping lists get shorter, some may find they’re still looking for the perfect way to thank “Any Servicemember” this year.
In an example of holiday support for the troops, Kathy Cox, Wal-Mart Foundation manager, talks with Army Cpl. Adam Poppenhouse during the kick-off of “Operation: Deck the Walls,” on Nov. 13, 2007. It’s a new program from Wal-Mart dedicated to bringing holiday cheer to families of recovering military at Fisher Houses in the United States and Germany. Photo by Linda Hosek
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The most popular ways to support the troops are through cards and letters, care packages and military family support. Hundreds of troop-support groups shared their holiday troop-support plans earlier this year.
Letters and cards are a simple, inexpensive way to show a servicemember they’ve got support back home, especially during such a family-oriented time of the year.
Marine Moms Online, www.marinemomsonline.net, based in Illinois, works to collect “letters, letters, letters,” said Julie Callahan, a group representative. “(Marine Moms Online) members work with churches and schools collecting letters that are given to the recruits on Christmas morning,” she said. “Encouraging letters from veterans, celebrities, sports teams, and politicians are collected and assembled into scrapbooks that are available to all recruits in the support battalions throughout the year.”
The Military Support Group of Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg, Ind., www.cpmsglife.org, has a goal of sending 4,000 cards to men and women serving overseas. Those will accompany 18-inch decorated Christmas trees. “(We) have sent approximately 10,000 Christmas Cards,” said Robert Leive, a representative of the group. Last year, the group sent 4,000 cards.
Many groups work hard to collect holiday greetings for the troops, and though it was common practice during past conflicts, sending a letter addressed to “Any Servicemember” is not a good idea. The Defense Department, citing security concerns, enforces a policy specifying mail not addressed to a specific individual will not be accepted. It’s better to look to a troop-support organization that has established contacts to receive letters to the troops.
A box of goodies at the holidays is a sure way to brighten a deployed servicemember’s day, and dozens of troop-support organizations are working to make sure no servicemember has a gloomy holiday.
“This will be our fifth year of sending holiday treats to our troops, as well as our weekly support care packages,” said Meredith Kelly, chair of Illinois-based Operation Stars and Stripes, www.operationstars.com. “In November, we start sending new pre-lit 3- and 4-foot Christmas trees with all the trimmings to our units that we are supporting.”
Those trees come complete with a DVD copy of the original “It’s a Wonderful Life,” she said. “We try to reach as many as we can to let them know they are not forgotten,” Kelly added.
California’s Operation Gratitude, www.opgratitude.com, has mastered the art of sending care packages, packing more than 34,000 boxes of goodies in the first four days of its 2007 Holiday Drive, which kicked off Veterans Day weekend. Group officials anticipate packing the 300,000th care package for a deployed servicemember on Dec. 15. That milestone package is expected to arrive on or around Christmas Eve and will contain a special gift for the recipient. “We will be sending 50,000 to 60,000 care packages to deployed troops,” said Carolyn Blashek, the group’s founder. “We welcome donations of items, letters, funds to pay for postage, and volunteers to help assemble the packages at our facility in Van Nuys, Calif.”
Military Family Support
Sometimes the best way to support the troops at any time of the year is to support their families back home. During the holidays, this can be especially powerful.
CRVA Charities, Inc.’s annual Toys for the Troops’ Kids drive, www.toysforthetroopskids.org, began in 2003 with a goal of providing two toys for every child of a deployed military parent from the Sacramento, Calif. area. A booming success, the program has expanded, said William F. Stein, the group’s president. “We will collect 50,000 toys for the kids of deployed troops (to be) distributed in four western states and Hawaii in December,” he said.
The Homefront Cares, Inc., www.thehomefrontcares.org, which offers year-round support, will provide between 500 and 1,000 meals to families at Fort Carson, Colo.
Other organizations, like Our Military Kids, www.ourmilitarykids.org, operate year round, but having strong support during the holidays makes it easier for them to fulfill their missions. Our Military Kids provides grants to children of deployed and severely injured National Guardsman and reservists for enrichment activities and tutoring that nurture and sustain the children during the deployment.
Links to all of these groups and more than 300 others are available on the America Supports You Web site, www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil. America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.