Do you get excited when when you open your mailbox and find a letter from a friend or family member? Now, take that feeling and amplify it tenfold. That’s what it feels like to receive a letter when you’re deployed.
Writing letters is a great tradition and becoming a pen pal to an American troop overseas is one of the many ways you can support our men and women in uniform.
Being deployed is tough. You leave your loved ones behind and are shipped to a faraway, unfamiliar location. For the next six months to a year you interact with a foreign culture and have to be ready for any life threatening contingency, but after a while the daily routine becomes tiresome. Frustration brews.
A letter is a welcome gift from the home front. Here’s why writing letters to our troops is important:
1. Letters Encourage
Letters and care packages from home break up the monotony and remind our troops of what is waiting for them back home. A word of encouragement or some of “mom’s homemade cookies” give them the strength they need to carry on and complete the mission at hand.
2. Letters Bring Home to the Front
Many troops don’t have anyone who writes to them. By writing supportive letters, you bring a little bit of home to their dangerous, stressful corner of the world.
3. Letters Build Friendship
We all need friends, and having a written correspondence with a deployed service member helps to foster friendship. If you’ve never been deployed, then you have an opportunity to learn about what life is like in a combat zone. If you have been deployed, then you can empathize with and support your pen pal through his or her struggles.
What to Write
Writing to a complete stranger can be challenging. What do I say to someone who I have almost no connection with?
Kyle Lord, a military mom, of Keystone Soldiers sheds some light on how we can reach out to our brothers and sisters in arms thousands of miles away.
“The letter should be uplifting,” she told Veterans United Network. “Talk about yourself. Talk about everyday things that are going on. That connects you to the military person more than anything else.”
What not to write is also just as important as what to write.
“Don’t say things like “‘I hope you don’t get killed,’” Lord added. “Don’t ask about how many people they have killed.”
And, if you’re looking for love, you’re looking in the wrong place.
“(Pen pal programs are) not a dating service,” Lord said. “We are here to support them from home, and hope that they come home safe and sound.”
How to Get Started
The best way to send letters to military members overseas is through an organization that supports our troops. The standard method of starting a letter is to write “Dear Hero” and to introduce yourself. The troop who receives the letter will then have the choice to write back.
There are a few organizations that coordinate pen pals. Each has a different method for doing so, so it’ll help to read a group’s policies to ensure your letter correspondence success.
Keystone Soldiers is located in Pennsylvania and they support overseas service members by coordinating letter correspondence and care package mailings since 2002. They’ve sent an average of 5,000 letters a year.
AdoptaPlatoon has served troops since 1998. They hold a variety of campaigns that support our uniformed men and women in a variety of ways.
Soldiers’ Angels was founded in 2003 and volunteers assist veterans, wounded and deployed personnel and their families in a variety of unique and effective ways.
Photo courtesy of The National Guard