DALLAS (Army News Service, Oct. 17, 2007) - 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 set by 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.

In addition to deadlines, several other factors must be considered when sending mail downrange. 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 concerning incoming mail imposed by unit commanders relative to size and weight to ensure logistics support can handle the heavy mail load. Finally, all packages and mail must now be addressed to individual servicemembers as required by U.S. Department of Defense regulations.

In order to help facilitate the mailing process and avoid many of the obstacles that come with the traditional care packages, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service created "Gifts from the Homefront," a campaign that 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 AAFES' Chief of Communications Lt. Col. Dean Thurmond. "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. While inventories can vary from location to location, most facilities carry a full assortment of health and beauty items, toiletries, snacks and drinks.

"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 service members (designated by the purchaser) or distributed to "any service member" through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, Fisher House, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Operation Homefront, Operation Interdependence® or USO. "Gifts From the Homefront" gift certificates can be redeemed at exchange facilities worldwide.

Recent reports indicate troops shopping their contingency exchanges are reaching for beauty items, soft drinks, snacks, Military Exchange Global prepaid calling cards, magazines, movies and more.

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. More than 23,500 of these have been delivered to servicemembers and their Families via AAFES' 10 charitable partners.

(Information provided by AAFES Public Affairs.)