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Adopt a soldier for the holidays

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By Holly Huntley

By Holly Huntley

While most Americans will spend Christmas Eve nestled warm in their beds, 250,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen will spend it alone in 130 countries throughout the world.

That is the reality.

Those service members have no decorated Christmas tree surrounded by presents, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire and no jingle bells softly playing in the background. Instead of a silent night, they have bombs exploding nearby and mortar shells flying over their heads.

For many of America’s soldiers it will not be a “Merry Christmas” this year, but many people here at home are doing what they can to avoid that.

Many groups and organizations are finding unique ways to make an impact on the lives of American soldiers during the holidays.

Care packages are being sent overseas this month with all sorts of gifts that can make a difference in the lives of these service men and women during the Christmas season. Groups like the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach Program provide lists of most frequently requested items such as toothpaste, lip balm, hardy candy, baked goods, used books, calling cards for soldiers to call home and even Christmas cards to mail home since soldiers can’t receive them where they are.

To ensure the best result these groups are asking for everyone’s support.

Sadly, most Americans assume they can’t do a thing but sit and watch the terror displayed on the nightly news. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men died to win them.” And men are dying to win our privileges as we speak.

Therefore these encouraging donation programs have been set up nationwide and one of the best ways to locate them is online.

At sites such as operationmilitarypride.org or soldiersangelsfoundation.com anyone can locate a local organization or take part in a new procedure called adopt-a-soldier. This simple process allows people to actually “adopt” a service member whom they can send mail and packages to throughout their deployment overseas. The provider can receive access to information on that particular soldier such as their full name, their military organization or unit and their military post office address.

There are specific requirements for the U.S. Postal Service when anyone sends overseas and military hold mail. The Defense Department set these guidelines in 2001 when they said the military couldn’t accept items mailed to “Any Service member” due to security concerns and transportation constraints instigated by the Sept.11 attacks.

By adopting one of these soldiers people can send care packages directly to them to make certain they receive their donations in time for the Christmas holiday. The deadline date for shipments is Saturday, Dec.11.

There are numerous other ways in which people can show their support for American troops. Anyone can get involved by donating supplies, joining a letter-writing campaign or making a financial contribution to many of the online associations such as “Operation USO Care Package.”

The most important effort that these organizations are making is to show America’s love and support for those men and women who can’t be with their families this holiday.

These groups want service members to know that they are in America’s thoughts and prayers this Christmas season. Simple efforts like these show that people can take a moment out of their last few weeks of semester finals, Christmas shopping and vacation planning to make the American soldiers’ holiday special.

Let’s face it, there’s a war going on out there and our country’s soldiers are putting their lives on the line in order for Americans to “sleep in heavenly peace.” Wouldn’t it be appropriate to show some respect and acknowledgement towards those courageous soldiers at a time when they need it the most?

The Have a heart/Adopt a Soldier foundation thinks so. They say while enjoying your freedom…thank a veteran. The best way Americans can make a difference is by participating in the contributions set up by nationwide organizations.

For additional information on local charities or how to adopt-a-soldier visit AmericaSupportsYou.mil or USAhelp.us on-line.

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