Top 11 Tips for Staying in Touch with Troops
|October 17, 2011||Posted by Darcy Pattison under Military families|
Stay in Touch with Military Troops (Or Your Military Family Member)
Staying in touch helps keep up the morale of troops. You can also encourage a military family with these tips.
- Go old-school. Most soldiers say nothing’s better than an old-fashioned letter. If your mate or child or family member or friend is deployed, make a commitment to write a letter once a week or every two weeks. You can’t control when they’ll receive this mail, but if you’re consistently writing letters, they’ll be getting mail at some point. You don’t need to write a book. What’s most important is consistent, frequent communication and letting them know they’re loved. Give them an extra smile by asking kids to write letters and draw pictures. Keep letters upbeat as possible. Tell about something funny that happened.
- Try MotoMail. Family and friends of Marines deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may download, print, and send a free, private, secure letter to military members at https://www.motomail.us/ . Or, send mail to an Army member at https://www.superletter.com/ .
- If you don’t have a family member or friend in the military, write someone who doesn’t receive mail. Contact The National Military Association at www.militaryfamily.org/ .
- Care packages, care packages, care packages! For APO/FPO/DPO information, go to https://www.usps.com/send/apo.htm? . For more information about customs forms, go to https://www.usps.com/send/customs-forms.htm? . Make sure to verify the service member’s current address with the family back home, because these addresses can change during deployment. Have kids decorate the inside of the mailing boxes.
- What should you mail in care packages? Think locally. What hometown or state favorites can you send? Make sure the treats will not melt or ruin in extreme heat or cold. Send canned goods with pop-top lids. Send plastic spoons. Send treats soldiers can share with other soldiers, like bagged candies or chewing gum or one-drink packets. Send phone cards and giftcards (soldiers can use them to contact their family or shop online for family birthdays or holidays). Send blank cards, birthday cards, stationary, envelopes, and disposable ink pens, so the military member can send their own mail. Send photos of life in the U.S., like nature and seasons. Send a great magazine. Send newspaper clippings about people and places they know. Add something fun, like a small ball or way to pass downtime, like a puzzle book. Scan kids’ schoolwork. Ask the troop member for things they need, like heavy-duty socks or boot laces or Band-Aids or sunscreen. Best tip: don’t send things that need carried or kept. Space is tight. Send things that can be mostly used up and enjoyed.
- Use today’s technology. Most military families communicate via email (set up Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail accounts), anytime a soldier has the opportunity for computer time. Many Facebook and use Facebook’s Chat for live communication. Due to security, there may be restrictions. Due to time zone differences, phone calls can be difficult to schedule, plus expensive. But with smart phones, you can often communicate with the soldier at unexpected times. On Facebook, leave your family member’s chat name open, so anytime he or she comes on, you can see the green dot. Via SMS, you can subscribe to your family member’s Facebook updates and receive notifications as a text messages to your phone, letting you instantly go on to Like or Comment or Chat. On Facebook, go to Account & Account Settings and click the Mobile tab, then to your soldier’s page, and click “Subscribe via SMS”.
- If allowed due to security, use those instant messenger and video chats available with Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and/or Skype. If you can use the video Skype and see each other, it helps everyone, despite static, delays, or any glitches. Seeing that face is worth a thousand words! Imagine your soldier being able to watch his or her child open birthday or holiday gifts. Or, your soldier can text to your cell phone via Skype. You can also leave Skype voicemail for soldiers not currently available.
- Special programs where you can donate or do something special for your soldier or any soldier:
- Dog Tags for Kids (U.S. servicemen and servicewomen can send one free to their child back home). Read about the program at www.dogtagsforkids.com/ .
- Donate a cell phone at any AT&T or donate money or a calling card. Find out more at http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/ .
- Buy a cup of coffee for a deployed soldier! The Green Beans Coffee Company serves troops. You can buy a Cup of Joe gift for any soldier for each $2 you spend. You can send a note along with that gift. Or, buy a coffee card for your special soldier. See the details at http://www.GreenBeansCoffee.com .
- Create a memory box or scrapbook, adding communication back and forth, photos, and any mementos. Let kids create a gift for Mom or Dad when they return home, by taking a photo of the military member’s child each first of the month and writing a message to Mom or Dad on the page. It’s a great idea to keep a family journal, writing down the hard moments missing your family member, ways you’re helping each other get through this, and funny, sweet, or small moments you would like to record. Make sure to record little ones’ heights and weights at regular intervals. Write down info after doctor or dentist check-ups or teacher conferences.
- Create a mini photo book for your soldier spouse or fellow parent or military adult child. Choose a special photo of you and your soldier together to look at whenever he or she is most lonely. Add a great photo of each family member and pet. You might include a photo of your home or hometown.
- Set a “thinking of you” time. No matter where you both are, set a time of day or night whenever you both pause a moment to send love each other’s way. You might exchange a special symbol that you both kiss at this special moment.
Watch these tributes by military kids.
-By Lorri Cardwell-Casey (who says a big THANK YOU to every service member and family member out there!)