Holiday support for the military

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 website photo

Angel Williams, a T-G reader whose son is serving on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, contacted the Times-Gazette and asked us to do something encouraging community support for our men and women in uniform during the upcoming holiday season.

Just last week, in a Veterans Day interview, veteran Tim Estes mentioned how much supportive letters, many of them from people he'd never met, meant to him when he was serving in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

Here are some ways you can help make things brighter this holiday season for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving far away from their friends and family:

Operation Gratitude

-- Four-star rating from Charity Navigator

-- Accepts financial donations to put together care packages. Because of the group's relationships with vendors who donate products, it costs them only $15 to assemble and ship a care package containing products valued at between $45 and $100. The group says it has sent out more than 1.9 million care packages to date.

-- Accepts letters (don't fold or place in an envelope) with generic salutations such as "Dear Hero," "Dear New Recruit," "Dear Service Member," etc., and includes them with the care packages it sends out. Letters may be handwritten or typed, but should be hand-signed. Do not use "Dear Soldier," "Dear Sailor," "Dear Marine," or so on, because the charity cannot guarantee that the letter will be sent to the proper branch of the service.


-- Too small to be rated by Charity Navigator

-- It was once possible to send mail addressed to "any soldier" or "any sailor," but during anthrax scares which followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service put an end to the practice. So the family-run non-profit Any Soldier provides potential well-wishers with addresses of real, specific service members who have agreed to help distribute letters or care packages they receive to their comrades.

For example, you might go to and get the name of a real Marine who is serving. You would then send your letter or package to a participating service member, followed by the line "attn: Any Marine," followed by the participating service member's real APO/FPO address. The "attn: Any Marine" (Sailor/Soldier/Airman/Coast Guard) line gives the cooperating service member a "heads up" that this is not personal mail to him or her, but is intended for redistribution. When the cooperating service member receives the letter or package, he or she will find another service member to give it to. If a postal clerk has a problem with "Any Soldier" in the second line, the non-profit suggests you just put a line through it. The cooperating service member will still get the message and know what to do.

Service members interested in helping distribute mail can sign up through the organization's website.

Adopt A Platoon

-- Solicits donations for care packages delivered to military members overseas.

-- Several different holiday-themed programs; well-wishers can send hand-made or store-bought Christmas stockings for distribution.

-- Three-star rating from Charity Navigator

-- The organization's website has a handy, downloadable pamphlet with care package suggestions for sending directly to a specific military member for whom you have an address, including a list of helpful items and where to get information about items which can not or should not be sent to a specific location.

American Red Cross

-- Provides emergency communications and other services to military members and families. Supported by contributions.

-- Three-star rating from Charity Navigator


-- Congressionally-chartered but not a part of the federal government.

-- Two-star rating from Charity Navigator

-- Seeks donations to support a variety of programs which benefit military members.

-- Messages of general support for service message may be submitted at the organization's website. You can type your own message or select from a list of standard messages.