Recent years have seen several Internet-based grass-roots promotions of programs that enable the public to send letters, cards, gifts, and other greetings to U.S. troops serving overseas or recovering in stateside hospitals, particularly around the holiday season. Unfortunately, many such promotions (such as the “Recovering American Soldier” effort) have not worked out as well as hoped due to insufficient organization, deadlines, security concerns, and other factors.
Up through the 2013 holiday season, the Red Cross and Pitney Bowes sponsored a “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program to distribute holiday cards to service members, a program that encompassed not just troops who are recovering in military hospitals but also service members stationed throughout the U.S. and abroad, as well as veterans and their families. Well-wishers who wanted to get Christmas (and other seasonal) cards to U.S. service members could send those cards to a single national address, and the Red Cross/Pitney Bowes partnership would sort and distribute them to service members stateside and abroad.
Now, however, the Red Cross has discontinued the national aspect of the program in favor of having card collection and distribution handled at the local level, so there is no longer one single mailing address for Holiday Mail for Heroes cards:
With many service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays, the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes (HMFH) program empowers people to “Give Something That Means Something” by sending a card of thanks and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.
Beginning in 2014, the program will take on a different look, as Red Cross chapters across the continental U.S. and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards are sent. Check with your local Red Cross for times and locations of events and for opportunities to get involved.
Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distribute the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities. Local Red Cross offices will:
1. Hold events to sign or make holiday cards
2. Schedule card-sorting times.
3. Coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.
These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community — neighbors helping neighbors.
The Red Cross has also provided these guidelines for sending cards to service members:
Ensure that all cards are signed.
Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.
Only cards are being accepted. Do not send letters.
Do not include email or home addresses on the cards, as the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos, as these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place them in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
Those wishing to donate may want to explore the Military Families section of the Red Cross website.
E-mailed entreaties from previous years have urged Americans to send cards addressed to “A Recovering American Soldier” or “Any Wounded Soldier” care of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), but Walter Reed officials have said that any material so addressed will not be delivered:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages and letters, addressed to “Any Wounded Soldier” that Walter Reed will not be accepting these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service Member” or “Any Wounded Service Member” letters or packages. Mail to “Any Service Member” that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.
Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the “America Supports You” website, www.americasupportsyou.mil.
Furthermore, that is also out of date by a number of years. The former Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed in August 2011, and merged with the National Naval Medical Center to form the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland.
WRNMMC’s Facebook page instructs readers that holiday mail for service members should be sent through the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.