Saturday, November 9, 2013
How to Write a Letter to a Soldier
If you have a family member or friend currently deployed on overseas mission, you may already know that until January 11, 2014, you can send parcels for free at any Canada Post retail outlet. Letters up to 500 grams to deployed troops can also be sent free of charge until 31 Dec 2014. The above is applicable to mail going to any of the PO BOX STN FORCES, Belleville, Ontario addresses and to any deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships. Parcels and letters must be addressed to a specific soldier, include rank and mission information, and must not be deposited in street letter boxes.
If you don’t know any soldiers but would still like to write to one, you can address your letter to “Any Canadian Forces Member,” but postage will be required. You can find detailed instructions on their website.
Wondering what on earth you might say to a soldier you don’t know? I asked that question of my friend James, who served in Afghanistan a few years ago, and James gathered additional input from his colleagues. I also connected with some soldiers’ wives. Here is a brief summary of their collective wisdom.
Things not to say
Remember, the Canadian Forces has rules soldiers must follow in what they can and cannot communicate. Never ask things like how many people did you kill? How many firefights were you in? How many rounds did you fire? Do you know how many people were killed and wounded? These questions pull soldiers back to negative or unpleasant experiences.
Keep your political views to yourself. James says, “The missions the Canadian Forces are sent on and the ones we never are deployed for are not within our power to change. We serve at the direction of the Government of Canada and we follow that direction. Receiving comments about these issues is not helpful or constructive.”
Things to say
James and his friends tell me they love hearing expressions of pride, admiration, and respect. “Like anyone else, as a soldier, I like knowing what I do has value. I like knowing people are thinking about me and my safety. I like knowing I represent Canada and Canadian values overseas, where my fellow Canadians cannot go.”
Expressions of comfort and understanding are also valued messages.
Soldiers like to hear about where the writer is from and what they are doing. Tell them about your hometown, your weather, your work or school, community involvements and hobbies, or family life. But keep it positive.
Funny stories also help soldiers get their minds off their situation and help them relax. As you can imagine, after spending up to two years with the same group of soldiers, with the same stories and the same personalities, your letter can give them something new to talk about, complain about, worry about, and laugh about. Stay positive. Enough negativity goes around as it is. Your soldier does not want to be where he is or doing whatever he is doing, so keep it positive to help him through the day. Don’t forget to say thank you and tell your soldier he or she is making a difference. Happy letter-writing!