The holiday season is the perfect time for random acts of kindness: dropping off a toy in a Toys For Tots barrel, donating to food banks and homeless shelters, and volunteering to help at senior centers.
Of course any time of year is the right time to give of ourselves, but the holidays is often a time when our kindness is needed the most — no one wants to feel forgotten when the rest of the world is seemingly caught up in the magic of the season.
Our service men and women, unable to be home for the holidays, is another group of individuals who could use our support and friendship. Anysoldier.com, a non-profit website, lists hundreds of individuals representing themselves and the other men and women in their units and the items they are in need of.
According to the website, all soldiers listed on the website are stationed in areas that are in harm’s way. When you send letters and packages addressed to them and they see the "Attn: Any Soldier" line in the address, they put the letters and packages into the hands of soldiers who don’t get much, and sometimes no, mail. Everything is shared.
How to send
You can request two names a day. The address is e-mailed to you.
If I am sending a package, I have found the easiest and most economical way to ship items is by using the Postal Service’s Large Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Box. Boxes are free and available from any Post Office or can be ordered from usps.com. The APO/FPO boxes are also decorated with an ‘America Supports You’ design. The boxes measure 12 by 12 inches and 5.5 inches high.
Other features include a $2 discount over the regular Large Priority Mail Flat Rate Box rate making it only $10.95 to send to any APO/FPO address. If you use the Click-N-Ship feature on usps.com, the price is only $10.50 — no matter what it weighs — and, you can request Carrier Pickup online right after you print your Click-N-Ship label. Your letter or rural carrier will pick it up the next day, so you do not even have to make a trip to the Post Office.
The Postal Service just announced another military-friendly mailing opportunity — free Military Care Kits. The mailing kits can be ordered by calling 1-800-610-8734 and asking for the Care Kit. Each kit includes two Priority Mail boxes, six Priority Mail Flat-Rate boxes, eight Priority Mail labels, one roll of Priority Mail tape and eight customs forms with envelopes.
When to send
To ensure delivery of holiday cards, letters and packages by Dec. 25 to military APO/FPO addresses overseas, the Postal Service recommends the following mail-by dates:
APO/FPO AE Zip Codes 090-092, 094-098, 340, 962-966
- Express Mail by Dec. 18
- Cards, letters and Priority Mail, – Dec. 11
- Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) — Dec 4
- Space Available Mail (SAM) — Nov 28
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093
- Express Mail not available
- Cards, letters and Priority Mail — Dec. 4
- Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) — Dec 1
- Space Available Mail (SAM) — Nov 21
- Parcel Post — Nov 13
Express Mail Military Service is available to selected military Post Offices. Check with your local Post Office to determine if this service is available to the APO/FPO you are sending correspondence to.
PAL is a service that provides air transportation for packages on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.
SAM parcels are paid at the Parcel Post postage rate with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.
What to send
This is the fun part.
What I do is assemble a Large Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Box, make a list by reading what is needed by the group of men and women listed under their representative’s name on the anysoldier website that I’ve chosen and start shopping.
Some requests are specific –CHEEZ-IT Hot & Spicy and Gillette Mach3 Turbo razor cartridges — while other are more generic — stationary, snacks and shampoo.
The website also asks senders not to mix food and non-food items in the same box; and that letters are the most requested of any item on the entire site.
What to write? Like you are talking to a friend, because that is what that soldier is going to be real quick. Also, include your return address on the letter; envelopes can get lost.
If your letter is for a soldier other then the contact you address it to, start your letter "Dear Soldier" or "Hello," not "Dear SGT Smith" as on the address. The contact passes the mail out to folks around them and when that service member opens the letter it will feel better without the contact’s name on it.
Items that can’t be sent: anything obscene, bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith, and pork or pork by-products. Check usps.com for exact information.
And have fun. You are giving the best gifts of all to these men and women — friendship, support and love.