I am, of course, speaking of the pervading myth concerning sending holiday cards to the soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Hospital.
It's been said that if you send a holiday card to the hospital addressed to "Any Recovering Soldier, "An American Soldier," or something along those lines, the cards will be distributed to the patients. Once upon a time, this was probably true. However, for some years now, this has not been the case. Because of increased security concerns, the hospital will not distribute mail which is not addressed to a specific individual.
If you don't believe me, I refer you to our good friends at Snopes.com, who make it their lives' mission to sniff out and prove or disprove the most persistent of internet rumors. Here's the official word they have received from Walter Reed officials:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center... 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.
Uh, in non-legalese, don't do it.
That's not to say that sending these cards is a bad idea. In fact, it's a great idea -- it's an ideal project for classrooms, Scout troops, church youth groups, and anybody else with time and postage on their hands. You just have to do it through the proper channels.
One such approved channel is the American Red Cross. Their program, Holiday Mail for Heroes, is designed to make this whole thing easier on the well-meaning citizen. All cards must be postmarked no later than Friday, December 10th of this year (cards postmarked later than that will be returned), so that they have enough time to sort and distribute the cards before the holidays. They provide a few other details too:
- Include heartfelt sentiments and sign all the cards
- Address the cards with generic terms such as "Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran"
- Limit yourself to 15 cards sent by one person, or 50 sent by a group
- Bundle groups of cards in single large envelopes
- Do NOT use glitter!
- Do not provide personal information like home or email addresses
- Do not enclose letters, care packages, monetary gifts, or any sort of insert, all of which will be removed during the screening process
Once you've double-checked that your cards fulfill all these requirements, bundle them up and mail them off to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Debbie Tenzer of Do One Nice Thing also recommends sending cards to Warrior and Family, an organization dedicated to helping military families. Abide by the same guidelines as the Red Cross, and send the cards to:
Warrior and Family Support Center
3138 Rawley Chamber
San Antonio, TX 78219
Please, please -- if anyone you know has been encouraging people to send cards to Walter Reed addressed to recovering soldiers, let them know not to do this. The cards get destroyed unopened. Link them to this post, or to the Holiday Mail for Heroes website.
And to those of you who take the trouble to send these cards to our recovering soldiers, thank you.