Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
When Army Specialist Jack Wilson left Iraq in 2013, it was only 6 days before Christmas and he knew it might be a lonely time.
Most soldiers coming home from a deployment are required to remain on a U.S. military base while they transition from any battlefield. That can be hard during the holidays.
So it meant the world to Wilson, when he arrived at his barracks and found a Christmas package along with Christmas cards mailed through the Red Cross.
"I was a single soldier, so all my Christmas mail got directed to my barracks before I got back," he said. "It was pretty cool. They had this big gift basket and it had shampoo and pillows - things we didn't have when we got back."
Among other things there was a stack of Christmas cards with little notes in them from children all over the United States that really warmed the heart of the twice deployed Army veteran.
It is for soldiers like Wilson and thousands of veterans and soldiers in the Veteran's Hospitals across America, that the Red Cross developed Holiday Mail for Heros.
Holiday Mail for Heros is a program that delivers thousands of cards to soldiers serving abroad but also to soldiers and retired veterans and hospitalized veterans right here in the United States, said Ken Garcia, Red Cross regional director of communications.
The service helps Americans who wish to send a holiday card to a service member with the help of the Red Cross, Garcia said
Through Dec.6, Americans can express their gratitude and best wished for the holiday season to those who give the ultimate gift to our country," Garcia said.
According to Garcia, Red Cross volunteers all across the United States sort and deliver the cards throughout the holiday season and then send them on to their destinations.
"Where ever the Red Cross is stationed throughout the world, soldiers there can get the cards," Garcia said.
For those who wish to send cards, got to redcross.org/holidaymail for guidelines on how to send the cards. Send your cards to; Holiday Mail for Heros. P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
In celebration of the program this year, the Woodward Red Cross office will be holding a card making/signing event November 15, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The public is welcome to come, Garcia said.
For a soldier like Wilson, who has been deployed twice-once for a year in Afghanistan and once more in Iraq-the cards give him chance to sit quietly on his Army bunk, spread his own personal holiday across the olive drab of his wool Army blanket and feel appreciated.
"All the cards I got, from elementary students and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, I still have every one of them today," Wilson said. "It always feels good when really young people write a letter about how they appreciate what you have done for them."