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Holiday deadlines rapidly approaching for troop support

DALLAS (AFRNS) -- While the holidays may still seem far away, Americans hoping to show their support to deployed troops must be aware of some rapidly approaching deadlines. According to the Military Postal Service Agency, mail going parcel post must be sent by Nov. 14, while first-class mail must be sent by Dec. 10 to arrive by Dec. 25.

Besides deadlines, several other factors must be considered when sending mail to deployed troops. For example, each country has customs regulations that apply to all incoming mail, pertaining to everything from food items to reading materials. Furthermore, military units may also have additional restrictions imposed by unit commanders concerning mail size and weight for logistical reasons. Finally, all packages and mail must now be addressed to individual servicemembers as required by U.S. Department of Defense regulations.

To help ease the mailing process and avoid many of the obstacles that come with the traditional care packages, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service created "Gifts from the Homefront." This campaign allows anyone to make a direct and tangible contribution to military morale with a gift certificate that can be redeemed for nearly anything a specific servicemember wants.

"A package from home is certainly nice, but cookies get stale and fragile electronics can break," said Lt. Col. Dean Thurmond, AAFES' chief of communications. "A 'Gift from the Homefront' gift certificate can alleviate a great deal of burden for the post office and sender while ensuring Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors are able to get exactly what they desire or need."

AAFES currently operates 53 facilities in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Recent reports indicate troops shopping their contingency exchanges are reaching for beauty items, soft drinks, snacks, prepaid calling cards, magazines, movies and more.

"Gifts from the Homefront" can be sent to deployed troops by logging on to www.aafes.org/ or calling (877) 770-4438. From there, the gift certificates are sent to individual servicemembers as designated by the purchaser, or distributed to "any servicemember" through groups such as the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Fisher House, or USO.

"Gifts From the Homefront" gift certificates can be redeemed at exchange facilities worldwide. As of Sept. 30, approximately 92,900 "Gifts from the Homefront" gift certificates have been sent since the Department of Defense approved the exchange support campaign in March 2003. (Courtesy of AAFES)