One of the many sacrifices that service members often make is missing the holidays at home with family. Sending Christmas cards to deployed troops is just one small way you can make the holidays a little brighter for them. Even a simple holiday greeting from you might lift the spirits of an active duty service member on the other side of the world.
But where to send the cards? A number of organizations collect cards written by volunteers and distribute them to service members who are stationed away from home over the holiday season.
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Organizations that send holiday cards
United Soldiers and Sailors of America
USASOA is a nonprofit organization that collects cards for deployed troops each Christmas season. It accepts cards sent to its Maryland address through early December, at which point volunteers start sorting and boxing cards to be shipped overseas.
USASOA requests that all cards be sent without envelopes and that cards not include any glitter. Don't include your return address on your card. The organization also accepts care package items along with cards; the wish list includes things like warm socks, personal care items and trail mix. Monetary donations are also appreciated to help cover shipping costs.
Operation Gratitude solicits greeting cards for military members and first responders year-round, collecting two kinds of cards:
- Handmade cards that are blank inside so service members can fill them out and send them home to their loved ones
- Written letters/notes from volunteers
The cutoff for accepting blank handmade Christmas cards is in October, but you can send holiday cards after the cutoff and they'll be saved for next Christmas. Volunteers can write letters at any time, though. Register on Operation Gratitude's website to get started writing letters to service members.
American Red Cross
Anyone who has sent Christmas cards to soldiers in previous years might remember the American Red Cross' Holiday Mail for Heroes program. That program no longer exists. It was replaced with the Holidays for Heroes program, which essentially gives regional branches of the Red Cross more freedom to organize their own holiday programs. Most chapters no longer collect holiday cards for troops, but some still do; check with your local chapter.
Once it gets into mid-December, it's too late to mail greeting cards to an organization that sends them overseas. But you still have plenty of time to send holiday greetings to veterans and service members in your own community.
Check with a local veterans' group to ask about a way to get greeting cards to veterans who may be alone or otherwise struggling this holiday season. If you have a VA hospital in your region, you might be able to send cards there for distribution to veterans who are spending the holiday in the hospital. Local nursing homes may also be willing to distribute your handmade cards to resident veterans.
So.... what should my card say?
Don't overthink this! You can certainly write a long and personal note in the card if you want—but it's also totally fine to keep your Christmas greetings short and sweet.
Start your card with something like "Dear service member," then add a few lines thanking them for their military service and wishing them and their loved ones a safe holiday season. You can add religious messaging if you want, or not. End the card with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," your first name and your city or state.
Prefer a more personal approach? Consider posting a message on your social media channels asking if any of your friends have loved ones serving in the military who could use some extra cheer this Christmas, then send them cards directly. You might also find organized groups on Facebook or other sites that pair card-writing volunteers with specific service members.
Making a holiday card takes just a few minutes, but receiving that card might be the highlight of a soldier's day. It's a simple way to spread holiday cheer far and wide this Christmas season, and thank military personnel for their year-round sacrifices.