When he was in the final few months of his service in the United States Navy, my paternal grandfather (Pap, as I normally refer him) was involved in a serious automobile accident. His injuries required reconstructive surgery, and he spent weeks recuperating at Bethesda Naval Hospital. During his stay, which included the month of December, he received a Christmas card from a little girl living in Ohio. He and the girl did not know each other. Her card found its way to Pap through a program that solicited holiday cards from the public and delivered them to troops that were wounded or stationed away from family overseas.
The card was addressed to “a soldier.” Pap replied, “I am a sailor. I hope you won’t be too disappointed.”
That was almost sixty years ago. This week, we all have a chance to follow the example of that little girl and send a message of support to a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps forced to spend the holidays away from home and family. The American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes are again staging a Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign, collecting cards to be distributed to some of the 1.4 million men and women who won’t make it home for Christmas (or whatever they celebrate) this year.
Go to the Red Cross’s Holiday Mail for Heroes page for more details, or just send your card with proper postage to
Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD
Just be sure your card is postmarked by this Friday, December 10.
The Red Cross recommends a generic salutation like “Dear Service Member, Family, or Veteran” (has a nice warm ring to it, eh?), but otherwise heartfelt sentiments are encouraged.
I’m not about to guilt trip you with some “they sacrifice everything for our freedom, the least you can do is send them a card” jag. That doesn’t really do it for me. Don’t send a card to one of the troops because you feel guilty. Don’t send a card to kiss ass. Send it because it’s the holidays and it’s a fine, compassionate, human thing to do that will really make someone’s day.
I know receiving that little girl’s card meant a lot to Pap. It meant a lot to the little girl, too. Last year, Granny got a letter in the mail from that little girl — now a grown mother and grandmother herself — that included the reply Pap had written her from the hospital, which she had found while cleaning out the attic. They never met, or even spoke to one another, and yet they had made a difference, however small, in each other’s lives.
So what the hell, right? Whatever your politics, whatever your feelings about the military, whatever your feelings about the present conflicts, take a few minutes and drop a card in the mail to a military service member who I’m sure will really appreciate it. And if you’re reading this outside the United States, and there’s a program similar to this to get holiday mail to the men and women serving in your country’s armed forces, I’m sure they’d be glad to hear from you guys, too.