‘Tis the season that people look for ways to help those who are in need of some holiday cheer, whether it’s through supporting needy families or sending holiday cards to the men and women in the military.

As for me, I feel the need to address something that’s grinding my gears. I’m going to say this once, so please listen. (Ok, ok. I’ll say it as many times as I have to. I have a hard time being stern.)

Everyone on Facebook and every other social media outlet, you can’t simply send a holiday card to “A Recovering American Soldier” or “Any Wounded Soldier” or “Any Soldier” and expect them to arrive. No matter how many times your Mother-in-Law or Aunt Esther has posted it or forwarded it to you in an email, it will not work. So, please, for the love of Jeff, stop spreading these rumors and wasting your time.

You see, back in 2001, when there was an outbreak of Anthrax-laced mail being sent around, the Department of Defense became hypervigilant on what got shipped and sent to their soldiers. In fact, Operation Dear Abby, the program that’s been supporting troops with cards and letters since 1967, was even discontinued. Now, there are very strict rules about what you can send, along with how and to whom you are sending it to, in the mail.

There are very few government-approved organizations that guarantee your mail will reach a service member. In fact, there are two – the Red Cross and the USO. I’m sure there are hundreds of local non-profit organizations, or some that are run by military family members. I’m only going to highlight a couple. If you have one that you think should be highlighted,  please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.

Please refer to the site for each program’s individual guidelines on sending holiday cards or packages.

Holiday Mail for Heroes – The Red Cross collects holiday cards for service members and distributes them at military installations, veterans hospitals and in other military locations. The deadline for card submission is December 7.

Holiday 2012 USO Wishbook – Check out the USO if you want to send a soldier a little something more than a card. There are gifts ranging from $15 to more than $500.

Operation Gratitude – This program sends care packages on an annual basis, but will be sending out holiday care packages as well. Not only do they send things to service members, they also send things to cheer up kids of deployed men and women, as well as Wounded Warriors, Veterans and First Responders.

Any Soldier – This organization helps connect those who want to help with service members who wouldn’t mind a little note from home.

Operation Stars & Stripes – They are currently taking holiday stockings for packing and shipping to troops overseas.

For more organizations that aren’t listed, check out OurMilitary.MIL

All snarkiness aside, I hope that if you’re sending out cards to friends and family this year, maybe you’ll check out one of these links and send a service man or woman a card this season. It doesn’t take much, but a little thought or effort truly goes a long, long way to these men and women, especially when it’s so lonely being away from home during the holidays.

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