“I find it funny when people call paper ‘real’ mail, like e-mail is all in our imaginations!” writes Patti, an Air Force wife. “Man has always looked for faster methods of communications, runners and ponies and trains and planes — e-mail is just the next step in real mail delivery!”

Readers and bloggers have been generous with their comments and ideas in an ongoing Spouse Calls discussion about mail — “real” or otherwise.

Many of those who participated in polls on the Spouse Calls blog about sending and receiving mail agreed that e-mail was fine for most correspondence. The strongest responses in both polls, though, were in favor of real mail (the kind you can hold in your hand) for those who are far away.

One reader sent in a creative suggestion for combining letters with a deployment countdown.

“While my husband was remote for a year, a friend suggested a deck of playing cards,” she said.

“Before he left, he and the kids went and bought a deck of Scooby Doo cards. He took the deck with him, and every week he sent a card back with a note of his life there. The kids loved getting the card in the mail with the note. And when the deck was complete, dad was on his way home. His last deployment was six months, so they received two cards a week.”

This same reader said her e-mails are also important and that she saves them. “I have a disk with our ‘love’ letters from the desert.”

No one answering the poll claimed to be totally paperless in all the mail they send, but one lone voter agreed that “E-mail is best for every occasion.”

In the polls and in e-mail responses, there was general agreement that people like to send and receive actual cards for special occasions, especially holidays. Here are some comments:

• “I do think (Christmas cards) need to be mailed and not e-mailed. E-mailing takes the personal touch out of the greeting. Buying the cards, stamps, and taking time to write to and address them to each person or family shows you care. I always sign the card personally, usually adding a personal message. I think it is important.”

• “I don’t mind receiving electronic Christmas letters if I get a real card in the mail. I miss having lots of cards hanging up decorating the house for Christmas. I myself have occasionally sent a Christmas letter by email … but still sent a real card in the mail.”

• “Thumbs down (to electronic Christmas cards) for having a less personal touch. I prefer a card, even if there is only a signature inside.”

At any time of the year, mail from home is important when you are far away. Recently, I met a woman whose son is deployed to a remote location in Afghanistan. Land routes there are too dangerous for mail delivery, she explained. That day, however, she was rejoicing — there is no other word for it — because she had learned the mail would soon be flown in.

As my husband said after returning home from one deployment, “E-mail is nice, but there is no substitute for real mail.”

For complete poll results, go to spousecalls under “Letter Perfect.” Read the comments and add your own.

Next Week in Spouse Calls: Andrew Carroll, best-selling author of “Letters of a Nation” and “War Letters” and creator of The Legacy Project for collecting and preserving American war correspondence, discusses the importance of writing and saving your letters and e-mails.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB. Send comments or questions to her at

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now