So you would like to send a card or letter of encouragement to a deployed service member, yet you are unsure of what to write. Here are some tips from military personnel and family members.
Special thanks to military veterans Andrea Westfall, Chris Lightner, and the OWAH Facebook page members for their contributions to this page.
Tips on writing letters to deployed military personnel...
- Send a letter soon...and keep writing! If they are deploying, get a letter out as SOON as you can when you do get the address. It will mean the world when they are there (my husband was the last to receive a letter). I felt bad; he felt like perhaps I had the wrong address. I would say just keep writing, even if it is only one time a week.
- Establish regular contact - When my husband was deployed he loved getting letters from his friend, James, who talked about sports. It got his mind off what was going on around him and what he was missing out on at home. I noticed a huge change in his attitude when they started writing back and forth, it really helped him and I both out a lot.
- Ask how they can encourage their spouse and children - I am strongly encouraged when I see my wife encouraged, more so than when someone speaks to me directly.
- Ask how they can pray for me and my family. There is great power in prayer. Prayer gives me strength. Tell me you are praying for us.
- Words of encouragement and words of appreciation - Tell them we appreciate YOU! Your service, support, and sacrifice. Thank them.
- Talk about positive things - Don't write about any drama at home.
- Bible verses and inspirational quotes - Include uplifting, motivating quotes and Bible passages. See below for some suggestions.
- Sports - Write about sports or anything to make them feel connected to home and get their mind off where they are at.
- Always include accomplishments, no matter how small. My husband was ECSTATIC to hear that his little girl got the respect award at school.
- Talk about you - Write about your day, the weather, your job, your family. Get creative! e-How has some helpful tips to add some creativity to your letter - LINK.
- Ask about plans after deployment would be encouraging to me, I think. I know thinking about plans after multiple month TDYs* is encouraging.
- Kids - Artwork and cards are always appreciated! For the younger ones, feel free to utilize these free coloring pages - LINK.
- Brat Town Bugle TM newspaper - Involve the whole family. Draft a newspaper to fill them in on the latest happenings in your area. Download free pages to create your newspaper here - LINK.
- Flat Brat TM - For those who personally know the Soldier (for example, a close family member), have your kids color this flat military kid and send Flat Brat off to be with their loved one. Request photos of where Flat Brat eats, sleeps, etc. - LINK.
- Personal contact information - If you would like to provide an opportunity for your Soldier to respond, feel free to include your return address and/or e-mail address. However, do not expect that you will get a response. Remember, they are serving in a combat zone.
- Photos - Yes, include photos!
- A listing of organizations that receive cards and letters to distribute to the military community (deployed military personnel, wounded warriors, home front families, veterans) - LINK. Also be sure to check with your church, classroom, and other local organizations. While the above tips are guidelines, DO check to see what specific requirements are required by the organization that you will be sending your cards and letters to.
- If you do not know who will be receiving your letter, you may begin your letter by writing "Dear Service Member" to be inclusive of all branches of service and both male and female service members.
- Free mail program for the U.S. Armed Forces - If you choose to enclose a self-addressed envelope for the recipient to respond, don't bother to include stamps if they are serving in the countries listed on this USPS article (effective Feb. 10, 2011) - LINK.
Please consider this...
- Don't ask their opinion on the war.
- Don't ask about what's going on.
- Don't ask if they've killed anyone.
- Don't say it is a vacation - obviously deployments are not, but a three or four month TDY* isn't a vacation either when the Soldier is alone.
- Definitely do not say how wonderful it will be to miss out on the responsibilities of my wife, kids, or the home. I personally hate this comment with a passion, yet hear it all the time. A Soldier, at least male soldiers - or at least me - need to know they are needed. Helping with the kids, encouraging my wife both emotionally and spiritually, whether in person, on a phone, email, letter or webcam, makes me needed. For me this is likely my number one issue.
- Don't expect a response. As much as they would like to respond and thank you for your kindness, you must remember they are in a combat zone and that they most likely will not get a chance to write back.
- Don't include loose glitter or confetti.
- It could take 2 -3 weeks for your card or letter to arrive. Keep this in mind when sending cards for specific holidays.
- Note specific letter-writing requirements by some organizations. For example, some organizations prefer that you don't include return contact information or photos.
- Do not send cards and letters addressed "A Recovering American Soldier" or "Any Wounded Soldier" care of Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). If you would like to send cards and letters to wounded service members, please visit this LINK for a listing of organizations that will distribute them on your behalf.
- Do not send cards and letters addressed "Any Service Member" or "Any Wounded Service Member" - the US Postal Service will not accept these.
* TDY - Temporary Duty assignment away from their current permanent location. In a nutshell ~ away from their family, but not deployed. It could be a time period of a few days to a number of months (not to exceed six months).
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
- Thomas Paine, 1776
“Never in the face of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."
- Winston Churchill
"Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."
- Elmer Davis
"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you."
- Frederick Buechner
"God will not be absent when His people are on trial; he will stand in court as their advocate, to plead on their behalf."
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
"You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are."
- Max Lucado
"Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you."
- George Mueller
"The stars may fall, but God’s promises will stand and be fulfilled."
- J. I. Packer
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
- Corrie Ten Boom
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved."
- Helen Keller
"It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” Psalm 4:8
"The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." Psalm 9:9
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me” Psalm 31:14-15
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” Psalm 32:7
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." Psalm 32:8
"Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you." Psalms 33:20-22
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
"Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22
“My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him” Psalm 89:21
Psalm 91 - This Psalm is also known as the Soldier's Psalm. For a printable copy of this Psalm (full page or wallet size) or a Soldier's Psalm 91 Prayer to include in your letter, visit this LINK.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” Psalm 139:7-10
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:1-2
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13