Do you get excited when you open your mailbox and find an expected letter from a friend or family member, or when you get a random text message from an old friend? 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:
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 can help give them the strength they need to carry on and complete the mission at hand.
Many troops don't have anyone who writes to them or have little knowledge of news and pop culture back in the States. By writing supportive letters, you bring a little bit of home to their corner of the world.
We all need friends, and having a written correspondence with a deployed service member helps to foster friendship. If you have been deployed, then you can empathize with and support your pen pal through his or her struggles. If you've never been deployed, then you have an opportunity to learn about what life is like in a combat zone. But keep in mind: When building a friendship with an overseas servicemember, focus on what you can bring to the table. Asking too many personal details can be an invasion of privacy and may turn your pen pall off to letter writing. Build up to a friendship using these tips:
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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."
The best way to send letters to military members overseas is through an organization that supports our troops. 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 the success of your letter correspondence.
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.