WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2007) - America's support of its wounded warriors is as strong as ever this holiday season, and Americans are expressing that support by sending holiday cards to patients in military hospitals.
Due to DoD security policies that are unavoidable in the post 9-11 world, Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials said military medical centers cannot receive mail addressed to "any soldier" or "a recovering patient." These cards are returned to the Post Office.
However, with the support of the U.S. Department of Defense and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and with help from Pitney Bowes Government Solutions, the American Red Cross will collect, review and distribute holiday greeting cards to wounded military personnel.
Holiday cards and letters, but not packages, may be sent to the following address until Dec. 27:
We Support You During Your Recovery!
c/o American Red Cross
P.O. Box 419
Savage, MD 20763-0419
Red Cross volunteers will receive and bundle the cards, which will be shipped by Pitney Bowes. Then, Red Cross volunteers at the medical facilities will distribute the cards throughout the holiday season.
Cards must be received no later than Dec. 27, and must have adequate postage. Cards received after this date will be returned to sender. Again, officials remind senders that "care packages" are not part of the program -- only cards and notes. Also, they ask senders to please refrain from using glitter or any other inserts that would not be appropriate in a hospital environment.
This collaborative effort began recently, and cards that were sent earlier to "A recovering soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center", have been returned.
Because their cards were returned, many people have objected to Walter Reed's adherence to the policy that has been in effect since 2001. But hospital officials said they would rather be criticized for excessive care in protecting patients than for negligence should something terrible happen.
Military patients have on rare occasions received hate mail because of their participation in the Global War on Terrorism, Walter Reed officials said. They added that while these incidents are "thankfully rare," the use of the mails to send harmful substances to terrorize "is an all too familiar scenario."
Recent media coverage indicated "Any soldier" holiday cards received at Walter Reed last year were returned to sender or destroyed. No cards were destroyed by Walter Reed, officials there said. Cards with return addresses were returned to sender, and cards without return addresses were returned to the U.S. Postal Service.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials encourage as many patients as possible to spend the holidays at home with friends and family. Patients who are not yet well enough to leave the hospital for the holidays have family and friends who visit, and have extensive support (gifts, entertainment, holiday meals, and religious services) provided by hospital staff and by volunteers from the Red Cross and other organizations.