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Books For Soldiers

Watching reruns of M*A*S*H inspired me to send some love to medics and soldiers serving overseas. At Books For Soldiers (BFS), you can send reading material, snacks, toiletries, entertainment media and games to those who are — sadly — sometimes forgotten. Even simple postcards are appreciated. In order to participate, for security purposes, you must first register as an official BFS volunteer, which involves submitting a notarized application along with a $12 application fee. (It’s worth it.)

Once you have your ID and password, you’ll be allowed to enter the BFS discussion forums, which is where you’ll find lists of names and addresses and instructions on how to assemble and ship care packages. (Update: The U.S. Postal Service provides tips for mailing packages to military personnel serving overseas.) There are specific forums for each branch of the military, medical personnel, female soldiers, U.K. soldiers and those serving in Afghanistan and other countries. I usually head straight for the forum for soldiers who have not received any mail at all. I choose the most interesting name on the list, go shopping for sales on candy and toiletries and load up prepaid airmail boxes. I always enclose a personal card and a photo of my home town.

BFS volunteers comprise liberals and conservatives alike. In fact, political discussions are strictly forbidden on the BFS forums in order to focus on the task at hand — getting the addresses of military personnel and sending care packages to them.

When I put together my first care package, I was advised by veteran BFS volunteers not to expect a quick reply — or even any reply at all. The soldiers, after all, are mobile, not to mention a little busy. So, after shipping the package and hoping for the best, I was absolutely thrilled to receive an email message from a young man serving overseas who wrote:

Thanks for taking the time to send me a care package. It’s good to hear from home. We all appreciate the support we’re getting from people like you back home; it makes us feel better about being here. All your gifts are very thoughtful and useful. We’re having a good time with the games you sent, keeping up morale. It’s good to serve Americans like yourself.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I started planning my next care package.

Posted October 21, 2005 by Mariva in community

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