There are many American soldiers scattered throughout the world who would like nothing more than a piece of home, whether that be much needed gear, bed linens, their favorite snack or just a few kind words in a short letter from a stranger.
Sending a care package from home to a complete stranger might not be your first thought when seeking self-development, but these small acts of charity (the more accurate translation of the word commonly referred to as “love” found in 1 Corinthians 13 in many newer versions of the Bible) help to take our mind off our own daily issues and to be thankful for the small things in life we take for granted.
Finding a soldier is easier than you might think. Shipping is not expensive and they are only a few basic guidelines you need to follow. The website Any Soldier makes it easy to put a smile on the face of a hardworking soldier.
It was March 26th, 2003. Army Sergeant Brian Horn, one of 1,000 soldiers, parachuted into enemy territory in Northern Iraq. Five months later, Brian Horn was able to call his parents. Marty and Sue Horn had been sending their son an average of six care packages per week. So when Brian asked his parents to send more, “my wife and I thought he was kidding!” Marty Horn told me. “But Brian said, ‘no — its for the soldiers that don’t get any.’”
Both Marty and Sue Horn had spent their careers in the Military, so they immediately understood what Brian was saying. Millions of men and women serving overseas never receive any mail. Besides often lacking basic necessities, these men and women have to cope with the harsh conditions of serving overseas without signs of support from friends and family back home.
Any Soldier is a website that lets you find a soldier to send letters or packages to. Some are better off than others but all of them are missing something or another from home. Some of them would like nothing better than a letter.
Why would you want to do this? You may want to consider this act a reminder to be thankful for what you might take for granted, or to remember others before you start to worry about trivial matters in your life. Keep in mind this action is in no way a political statement. Whether or not you believe in the reason the government put those soldiers in various places around the world has nothing to do with the individual Americans that are far from home.
Maybe their store is always running out of soap or they can’t get their favorite gum or candy where they are. Maybe they are in short supply of socks or proper boots or need sheets. Maybe they are bored and just want a new video game to take their mind off more serious things in their off time. If you are a die-hard gamer you can understand this plight. The items and reasons are endlessly varied.
There are thousands of names to choose from and usually it is best to choose someone that is newly listed because they don’t have as many people sending them packages. Each soldier will state how many people they have contact with on a regular basis and separate them into male and female. I chose a female soldier because I figured I’d have a better grasp of what she would want or need.
If you want to help, do what you can, even if it is just a letter. I’ve read time and time again letters are much appreciated. This would also be a good project for a classroom or church. A soldier could be chosen that has an appropriate amount of contacts (say one for each student or one per classroom). A list could be made public of all their wants and needs. Small donations could be asked for the shipping and packaging supplies. Boxes could be sent off as they become full and the money is raised for shipping.
You can click on a link on the solider info page that will tell you what the shipping rules are. Also you will need to read the details about shipping. Basically you only pay for shipping to a few points around the United States, so you might want to pick someone that has a zip code close by to keep your shipping costs to a minimum. The average sized box shouldn’t cost more than 10 dollars or so to ship.
For security reasons you have to request an email containing the soldier’s address, and can only ask for a few at a time. They are usually prompt in emailing you the information, just be patient and check your junk mail. Also, before sending additional packages, check back and see if there is a notice that the address has changed. Usually it doesn’t because units move together, but if the individual is a floater of sorts or if a unit embeds itself into bigger units then there may be an address change.
If you decide to send anything, just follow the rules. Depending on where you send something the rules may change. Often you cannot send pork products, fresh vegetables, or money and I’m pretty sure you can never send anything overly violent or sexual, even if they don’t know any better or do know and ask. You are still responsible for what you send in the mail.
Although you may ship to a specific soldier, in spirit the packages can be given to anyone who might need what’s inside, but only if you write a specific line in the shipping address. If you want, you may write “ATTENTION: ANY SOLDIER” (in all capitals to adhere to U.S.P.S. guidelines) below the soldier’s name. This will help ensure that your package will be given to someone else who can appreciate your effort and not end up a “Return to Sender” waste of time and money.
I’ve had arguments with a few postal workers about the use of the line “ATTENTION: ANY SOLDIER” even though there is a name above it. This particular line without a name is not acceptable, but the official rule as I understand it, is that it is fine as long as there is a name above it. Try telling that to some of the postal workers and you’ll end up in an argument and won’t get anything sent.
There is however a simple solution to this. After writing the line, cross it off with a single pen stroke. Then there is no argument because if you are given a hard time by a well-meaning but misguided employee you can say: “Yes I know, so I crossed it off.” A scowl might be thrown your way but they can’t do anything about it. The addition of this simple line in the address helps the soldier understand the meaning of the package.
The rule of thumb for shipping is, if the box is shaken and you can hear stuff move around you haven’t stuffed enough peanuts in. I hold the box closed and give it a gentle and then rougher shake. Once I get the box so there’s no more sounds of shifting, I then pack a few extra in, squeeze it shut and tape it up very well. The reason I do this is because peanuts do settle a bit in shipment.
Put as many layers of sealed plastic as you can between things. If you send something such as soap and candy in the same box, wrap them up individually in several layers of small unscented trash bags or sandwich bags or even larger food storage bags. (These kind of bags can be reused and might come in handy.) I can ensure you, the candy will taste like soap after being locked up in a box for a good deal of time, even if they are both in their own package. This also helps if something comes out of its package and leaks. Even if it makes it way out of its own plastic bag, it won’t get on everything else. Whatever you do, never send anything like soda or aerosol cans like shaving cream or bug spray. Buy squirt bottles instead. It’s a good idea to tape removable lids in place.
Oh and don’t expect a reply. They are busy doing a dangerous job. It is usually easier to give them an email, but even then, sometimes they just don’t have time or don’t have access to a computer on a regular basis. Some of them don’t have access to reliable electricity!
The best way to keep up with what is going on with them is to check back on the website, as they have to check in every 50 or so days so the owners of Any Soldier know they are still available to take packages and letters. Some of them seem to give weekly updates with lots of pictures. Others aren’t so social or wordy and just let you know they received your packages and they are thankful and give an update on things such as “no more books we have a library now!” or “we still need socks and shampoo.”
Check out the Any Soldier website and become familiar with it. Click on some names and read what these soldiers have to say. Pick one, check the shipping rules for their particular address, and put a smile on the face of a hard working soldier!
1 Corinthians 13:11-13
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.