As my longtime readers know, every autumn I encourage my readers NOT to send mail to Walter Reed Hospital. This is something I've done since the blog was founded, and it's not because I'm a jerk; it's actually the opposite. This is the annual post where I talk about Holiday Mail for Heroes, which allows us all to send holiday greeting cards to soldiers recovering in military hospitals.
Here's the thing. Very soon, well-meaning but ill-informed people will begin suggesting to their Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and other social media connections that "when writing out your Christmas cards this year, address one to Any Recovering Soldier at the Walter Reed Hospital!"
NO. DO NOT DO THAT.
Sorry for the caps, but I can't stress this enough. Mail addressed to "Any Recovering Soldier" at any military hospital will be destroyed unopened. Like most prevalent urban myths, there's truth to this one; years ago, you could legitimately do this and the mail would reach a soldier in need of some holiday cheer. In recent years, however, that practice has been discarded because there's too much of a chance to send something unpleasant through the mail.
Instead, send your cards to the Holiday Mail for Heroes program, which is run by the American Red Cross. They will see to it that a hospitalized soldier or sailor will receive your good wishes. Just make sure everything you send adheres to their guidelines:
- Sign all of your cards.
- Do not enclose anything - no photos, money, business cards, religious tracts, anything. All inserts will be removed and thrown away.
- Do not include any contact information.
- Use a generic greeting, like "Dear Service Member."
- No letters - cards only.
- Participants should limit the number of cards they submit to 25 from any one person or 50 from any one class or group. If you are mailing a large quantity, please bundle the cards and place them in large mailing envelopes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution. (This one I copied verbatim from the site.)
- NO GLITTER. It poses too much of a threat to patients with respiratory ailments.
Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Make sure your cards are postmarked no later than Friday, December 6, 2013 in order to ensure timely delivery to the recipients.
My friend 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 spread the word! Let's get the correct information out there ahead of the prevalent mistake, and maybe Walter Reed Hospital won't have so many cards to throw away this year.