The Candy Apple
Beyond Pen Pals
I have written before about my amazement that the Internet makes it so easy for us to connect with one another: friends, family, work or student groups, and total strangers. A few months ago, I made a new connection that renewed my appreciation for the way this stuff works out, and I would like to share it with you.
I subscribe to three or four magazines, and I used to save them for the recycling bucket. A couple of years ago, I heard about a Web site called Books For Soldiers, the point of which is to send paperback books and magazines to soldiers short on reading material. I visited the site, and while I appreciated the need for registration and rules, at the time I did not want to enroll. A friend had a relative in Iraq, so I sent my stuff to him and hoped his unit had some use for it. Quench gum and beef jerky, and then there were the books, DVDs, and magazines.
Every couple of years, I go through my books and movies to clear out the stuff I won’t read or watch again. That made a large first shipment, two years ago. Then I settled in to monthly magazine shipments with an occasional goody thrown in. After a while, that soldier came home. The nerve!
While I was happy for him, I needed a new target for my leftovers. I signed up with Soldier’s Angels, and for a few months I had a sailor to send stuff to. But then he also came home—to Norfolk, one state from me.
I took my magazines to the gym for a while but it felt weird. I tried arranging a DVD swap with some online friends, but they thought my leftover DVDs were bad. Well, yeah, that’s why I wanted to swap them! But then I remembered, lots of soldiers have DVD players and need movies.
So I started looking for soldier adoption Web sites. There are gobs of them. Some will prepare care packages for you, and they want you to sponsor them. Some help you connect with a specific soldier, and this is the sort I wanted. I settled on AnySoldier, a site that allows soldiers to sign up to distribute letters or gifts to fellow soldiers who may not be getting much mail. For security reasons, postal and military regulations will no longer allow packages or letters addressed to “Any Soldier” to be delivered. If you address your letter to CPL John Doe, ATTN: Any Soldier, etc., it’s fine. But as I learned after a while, you can just address the items to “your” soldier, and he or she will hand them off as appropriate.
There are a lot of neat things about this site. You can sort the requests several ways: to get a soldier or sailor from your area, or one who has not had a lot of responses, or even one from a particular service branch. The soldiers and sailors post messages with their units’ requests for specific items. My unit had electricity but no microwave, and I was able to send them one. It arrived undamaged, so they were also able to use the microwavable popcorn my friends sent. Once you get going on this stuff, you will find that people you know also want to contribute.
The site stresses that the most important thing for us to send is our support—that is, letters. We do not have to send high-postage items. I made sure my first shipments included letters telling the soldiers I do not know anyone who says anything bad about them, regardless of how we feel about the invasions. We know these individual soldiers and sailors have volunteered to defend us, and we admire their courage and dedication. End of story.
The site has lots of great suggestions about what to send and how to send it, and FAQs about what not to send and the like. Spend a little time researching it before making a commitment. Once you find your “perfect match,” you will make a new friend—even if you never hear from him.
People from many nations use AnySoldier. In the US the way it works is that we pay postage to an APO or FPO address, which means the item goes to New York City or to San Francisco before going overseas. We pay postage only to NYC or San Francisco. I’m not sure about postage from other nations, but I assume there are similar arrangements available. You just have to look around.
Also in This Series
- On Temptation · July 2010
- Beyond Pen Pals · July 2007
- Just Because We Can Do a Thing, Does Not Mean We Should Do a Thing · March 2006
- Google Tells Big Brother to Take a Hike · February 2006
- Wikipedia Is Not the Lovefest We Thought · January 2006
- Star Trek Gadgets Have Arrived · December 2005
- The Silver Screen Keeps Shrinking · October 2005
- It’s Just Business · July 2005
- Age Has Its Advantages · June 2005
- Complete Archive