'Any servicemember' gifts can't be delivered, but there are alternatives
(Click here for Stars and Stripes' page listing some ways to support the troops.)
’Tis the season to be cautious.
The Department of Defense has sent out a message reminding well-wishers that holiday gifts mailed to “Any Servicemember” will not be delivered to troops this holiday season, citing transportation constraints.
“During this time of year, the number of donation programs increase and causes mail from families and friends to be mixed with mail from unknown sources resulting in delivery delays,” according to a DOD news release.
Although packages must be sent to troops by specific name to be delivered, there still are ways for “Secret Santas” to spread some holiday cheer. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is sponsoring two programs — Gifts From the Homefront and Help Our Troops Call Home — to boost troop morale without compromising security or straining military postal workers.
Gifts From the Homefront works like gift certificates, which deployed troops can use to buy merchandise at any AAFES exchange, including the 29 in Iraq, 10 in Kuwait and five in Afghanistan.
For more information on the program, go to www.aafes.com or call 1-877-770-4438 (there is a charge if calling from outside the United States) to purchase the gift certificate. The certificates are then donated to “Any Servicemember” through the United Services Organization, American Red Cross, or other military specific organization.
The Help Our Troops Call Home program gives deployed troops phone cards to call loved ones over the holiday season. These cards can be used at any of the 60 AAFES call centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also can be purchased at www.aafes.com or by calling 1-800-527-2345, and when prompted by the recorded message pressing 1.
In addition to the AAFES programs, there are many Web-based programs available.
Some gift-giving sites include: www.defendamerica.mil, to send a virtual card or holiday note; www.usocares.com, which makes authorized USO care packages for deployed troops; www.operationuplink.org, which provides calling cards to troops through the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization; or visit the Support Our Troops section at www.military.com for ideas on how to donate holiday cheer.