Most families look forward to home-cooked meals, visiting with friends, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season. Every year, thousands of soldiers stationed or deployed overseas do not get experience most of these events. This year my son is among them.
Since the start of his enlistment in the Army, I always made sure to send my son homemade chocolate chip cookies for Christmas. One of the most discouraging things about my son being overseas is not being able to send him those silly cookies. As I talked to him on the phone one weekend, I mentioned how I was feeling about not sending him cookies. He told me, “it’s ok mom… do you think you could still send me a Christmas card?”
A card. A simple piece of paper folded in half. Some ink. Maybe a picture. Its delivery means “we are thinking of you”. A small bit of home in a foreign place.
Even though my son is at a duty station and not deployed to a combat area, I feel it is nearly impossible for me to provide a feeling of family for our holiday seasons as I have in the past. Even under the best circumstances, soldiers stationed or deployed overseas have limits on what they can do to celebrate the holidays. The limited personal space restricts decorating. Entertainment is often restricted for the security of the bases. In many parts of the world, our traditional family celebration would violate local laws. Add a global pandemic that slows down delivery of everything and it feels overwhelming to support our troops.
There are currently between 150,000 to 200,000 active-duty soldiers stationed or deployed overseas this holiday season. I can’t imagine that many soldiers being away from family. I remember being heartbroken when I realized a few soldiers had no family to celebrate boot camp graduation.
Six years ago my husband, my daughter, my brother (who is also a soldier) and I watched as hundreds of men and women were reunited with loved ones after 12 weeks of separation. As I cried from seeing my son, I noticed men and women standing alone. No one to hug them. Now I feel like my son is one of those lone soldiers. Who will hug him Christmas morning?
My son wants a card. That is all. I can do that. I will do that. But what about those soldiers who really are alone? Those that feel homesick. Those that have never been away before. If I can send one card to show my son I love him and miss him, can’t I send a card to other men and women?
Yes, I can. Yes, I will.
As I was signing my stack holiday cards to soldiers that I may never meet, I wanted to make them more personal. I want them to know that I respect and appreciate what they have given up to be a soldier. As I thought about how to accomplish that goal I realized that all I needed to do was tell them a little about me and my community. Here are 10 things you can put in a holiday card to a soldier that might help them feel more at home no matter how far away home really is.
10 Customizations to Use When Sending Our Troops Holiday Cards
- Share some facts about your hometown
- Add a favorite quote
- Share a recipe for your favorite holiday dish they can make when time and circumstances allow
- Tell them what you like the most about the holiday season and why you like it
- If you or your a loved one has served in the military, let them know
- Review a book you find brings you happiness
- Tell them about a movie you enjoy
- If you have a pet, share a story about something your pet did durring the holidays
- Have your children draw a picture
- Tell them about your holiday decorating plans
The most important thing is to keep your cards full of good cheer and respect. Instructions on where to send the cards, deadlines, and other helpful information can be found here