Tutorial - Any Hero Mail

Well, it's November 1, so you know what that means? It means the deadline for mailing in Christmas holiday cards has passed. (Winter cards - no Christmas papers or sentiments please! - are ok through the end of December.)

Oh no, Kate! I have Christmas cards I haven't mailed to my shipper yet! Is it really too late? What do I do?

I promise your shipper has seen all the wreaths and reindeers she wants to see until next summer, but have no fear! I have the perfect solution for you. Any Hero Christmas Mail! Part of the fun of the holidays is sending cards to people you love, but another great thing is receiving mail. Many of our heroes won't be getting cards or letters this season, and this is where your wreaths and reindeers can save the day. Write a letter to a hero. Deadline for Any Hero Christmas mail is November 30, so you have time! (And we include non-holiday-specific Hero Mail in every box all year round, so it's always the right time!)

But Kate, I feel weird about writing Any Hero mail. I never know what to write.

And that's the reason for today's tutorial. Keep reading, and you'll see how easy it is! Let's start with some basics:

  • Use a salutation like "Dear Hero" or "Hello" or "Greetings." We don't use the word "soldier" because the letters might be delivered to a hero in any branch of service, and "soldier" only applies to heroes in the Army.

  • Keep it upbeat. We want to encourage our heroes and brighten their day.

  • Find common ground, and talk about interests you may share. Talk about going to your child's ball game or something funny that happened during trick-or-treating, cute pet stories or a new plant or flower that is blooming in your yard.

  • Short notes are fine, but don't be afraid to "go long." Remember, a couple of sentences will be nice to read, but a long letter will stay with a hero longer and give them a few more minutes of enjoying words from "home."

  • Share your heart. Tell them something you're grateful for in your own words. Don't worry about being flowery or poetic. Just write like you're talking to a friend. Talk about your family's holiday traditions, share a joke you heard at the office. Describe the squeals of the kids playing Parcheesi in the next room.

  • Sign the note with your first name and your city/state. It is fine to include your full name or contact information, but don't expect our heroes to write back. Remember we're sending them a pick-me-up, not setting up a pen-pal relationship.

  • Envelopes aren't required. Hero Mail goes in a separate bag inside the box of cards. But if you put your card or letter in an envelope, please don't seal it. All Hero Mail is checked by the shippers before it is sent.

  • Ok, but really, I'm not that good with words. Can't you give me some suggestions?

    Sure. Here are some suggestions that were posted in OWH chat. You can use or adapt these for use in your own hero mail:

    This card brings you greetings,
    This card represents care,
    This card salutes courage,
    This card carries our prayers.
    This card gives our thanks
    For all that you do;
    Till the day you come home safe
    May God watch over you!

    You are a hero
    Not because you wear a uniform
    Or carry a gun,
    But because you serve your country
    Far from loved ones and home.
    There are not many
    With the courage to do what you do.
    You stand in the desert
    To protect the helpless;
    To guard the future;
    And to build a better world.
    We salute you
    For who you are and what you do.
    May God protect you
    The way you protect others.
    May God lay His loving hands on you
    And keep you safe from harm
    Until the day you return home
    And ever after.

    Born to love
    Trained to protect
    Destined to be our hero.
    —from an AnyHero letter by a child

    Just a little note to say
    That tho you may be far away
    Friends and strangers for you pray
    That God may keep you safe today

    God & I thought about you today.

    Dear hero
    This I pray
    God bless you
    every day

    Your courage gives me courage
    If I never said Thank You, I do it now
    May God grant you Victory
    Prayers are the way I visit you
    Remembered always, never forgotten

    is Fear that has said it prayers.
    —added by Chrissi, found on a church bulletin
    Thank you for who you are,
    where you are,
    doing what you're doing.
    Be safe and come home soon.

    Here are some other ideas:

  • Thank you so much for your service, being away from your home, family and friends. I just want to let you know that I appreciate it and thank you for it. Please come back safe and soon.

  • We stand behind you and support you all the way. Thank you.

  • I appreciate what you all are doing for our freedom. As a veteran, I know what you are going through. Thank you.

  • Sending you big hugs and cheer from home. Thank you so much for your service and bravery. Come home soon!

  • Thank you for your service. Your bravery and strength of character represent what America stands for. Bless you!

  • It's a great honor to be able to thank you for serving our country. You're very brave for the service you're doing for freedom!

  • Thank you for all you do. You portray what we American value most...freedom. Thank you for your commitment and bravery. May this card help bring you good health, clarity of mind and the courage you need to be successful. Each of you play such an important role in protecting our country. Please know that we are all behind your efforts and appreciate you and pray for you daily. You are all heroes to us!

  • I cannot find the words to express how grateful my family and I are that you are putting yourself in harm's way to protect our country. The U.S.A. is the land of the free and the home of the brave...but only because of courageous people like you. We wish you and your fellow troop members complete safety throughout your tour of duty. May you return home soon to a true hero's welcome. Thank you.

  • We don't know each other and will probably never meet, but I want you to know that you and all of our troops are in our hearts and prayers each day. Please always remember what you're doing will always be appreciated and never forgotten. I wish you all the best and pray for your safe and speedy return home to your family and friends. Thank you.Find common ground...

  • Can I get the kids involved?

    Of course! Kids are naturals at Hero Mail! We often hear from our heroes that they love to hang up kids artwork on their walls. Remember the number one rule, though, No Glitter!

    You can download special OWH coloring pages for kids. Feel free to share them with your scout or school groups or sunday school classes.

    If you'd like to solicit Any Hero mail from your church or civic group, check out the flyers here.

    If you'd like to set up an Any Hero card-writing table at your next cardmaking party, check out this video for more tips.

    Please take a moment to add any hints or tips you have for writing Any Hero mail in comments on this post.

    Remember, if you have a topic you think would make a good Tuesday Tutorial, please please please email me at kate@operationwritehome.org. Thanks!

    Marsha  – (November 1, 2011 at 6:12 AM)  

    Thank you for this LONG tutorial. Very informative. I'm sure the letter samples are going to be very helpful. Great video and ideas in there. (Cute box) Thanks.

    Ann  – (November 1, 2011 at 9:51 AM)  

    This was a message I received from a hero that received AnyHero mail."If I could make a suggestion, please ask people who write letters to put their contact info on the back, as many of us would like to say thank you."

    Ann  – (November 1, 2011 at 9:53 AM)  

    Oh yeah, I forgot to say thanks for the great tutorial!! We've done a few cardsignings, I LOVE the box in the tutorial. I will be making one of those this week.

    MizDenise  – (November 1, 2011 at 11:37 AM)  

    My suggestion: instead of a table in a hallway, take a minute DURING YOUR VETERAN'S DAY SERVICE to sign a card! (here's how we did it, with great success!)

    Include brief instructions/suggestions in the programs. Give each person a prepared card and a pencil or pen as they enter the service. Remind everyone of the sacrifices our troops make as part of the service, then give everyone a few minutes to write a note. Pass a basket to pick up the notes and pencils - voila, HeroMail signed by people who care for our troops and veterans!

    Since we have a fairly large church with multiple services, I made four versions of the notecards - two Christmas and two generic and divided the signed cards between all three shippers. The Christmas cards went in their final boxes and the generic could be used anytime.

    With a local military base, many cards were signed by veterans and military families sharing their experience and heartfelt prayers.
    We are doing it again this year!
    Thanks for the great tutorial!

    Lisa  – (November 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM)  

    Thank you SO much for this! I never write hero mail because I just don't know what to say. This will definitely help!

    Adele  – (November 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM)  

    Here's something I have done a few times, and I always hear back from a happy service member or two. If you are going someplace special and fun, bring a camera with you. Take pictures of your day, then type up a letter in Word, inserting pictures in the appropriate places. Tell funny stories about your day and put the appropriate picture next to your text explaining the picture. For example, I'm taking my son to Disneyland for his 12th birthday soon. I'll take pictures of the rides, the characters, my son, maybe some good food we eat. I've done a Disneyland themed letter before, and it worked out well. Other places could include the zoo, a hike, a day at the mall, you child's open house at school, etc. Do you have fun Halloween pictures?? A piece of home is always good. Since you are typing and printing this up, you can print several copies, but be sure to put your own "wet" signature and maybe a happy face or something to personalize it.

    Ann  – (November 1, 2011 at 3:59 PM)  

    Thanks. Here is my hint, I've started writing a hero note everytime I write a card or letter to someone else. I'm collecting them for awhile and then will send a batch in. Since I don't make many crafted cards, I save them for heros to write home on and I use up my extensive collection of purchased cards and notepaper for hero mail. Great use for odd sized cards too.

    Paula S.  – (November 1, 2011 at 5:38 PM)  

    This is a great tutorial Kate. It really helps to have some guidance in writing any hero mail. In a recent batch I included a photo I took of the shoreline near me, it was easy enough to print out a few on my inkjet and served as a subject/basis for the short note I wrote.

    Rufus  – (November 1, 2011 at 7:35 PM)  

    This is great. When I ask folks to write Hero mail, they always say...but I don't know what to say!! Thanks for all the suggestions.

    Margaret  – (November 1, 2011 at 10:52 PM)  

    Thank you for taking your time to create this tutorial. It is very helpful.

    Sherry Hickey  – (November 2, 2011 at 4:45 AM)  

    Thanks for this excellent, detailed tutorial! I hope it generates lots of AnyHero mail!

    Julie  – (November 2, 2011 at 8:19 AM)  

    Lots of great ideas here, including in the comments. I had never thought of printing my own photos to turn into AnyHero cards before but that is a fantastic idea!

    Aundria B.  – (November 5, 2011 at 12:24 PM)  

    Thank you so much for this tutorial - I've got a bunch of extra Christmas cards from years past & this would be a perfect way for them to find a loving home in the hands & hearts of our heroes. Thank you for all of the writing prompts too - so helpful! So many other great ideas in these comments too... oh, this is going to be so much FUN!!

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