The Missouri National Guard recommends that packages and cards to be sent to soldiers overseas for Christmas go out no later than December 3. A similar schedule would have packages go out by November 28 to arrive for the first night of Hanukkah. For those who want to send things to our military men and women, cutoff dates can sometimes sneak up because it is so far in advance of the actual holiday.

Family Assistance Coordinator for the Guard, Jen Whitacre, says First Class Mail with the United States Postal Service is the most often used method for sending things to troops. Items that are on their way First Class by December 3 should arrive in time for the holiday.

USPS also offers its recommended 2011 Holiday Mail-By Dates. 

For shipping from and to locations in the U.S., the following dates are suggested, to ensure packages, cards and letters arrive in time for celebrations:

Graphic courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

 

 For shipping items from the U.S. to international locations:

Graphic Courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

 

The USPS website has more information about sending packages to troops here, including a list of items that cannot be sent to troops or are deemed inappropriate. 

For those wanting to give gifts to troops but with no one specific in mind, Whitacre says the Guard has worked with a couple of organizations in the past. Which one will best suit the specific need depends on how many soldiers one wants to send items to. Sites include:

While a troop drawdown is underway in Iraq, the Guard will not release information such as the dates of personnel movements. For those wanting to know if specific men and women will still be deployed at Christmas, the Guard will only say whether or not a unit is still accepting packages. Whitacre suggests checking with the Guard for the latest shipping information before sending anything on its way.

The Guard also offers this list of items that soldiers want or can use while deployed:

  • Pens & Paper
  • Individual packages of chips
  • Decks of cards
  • Paperback books
  • Toiletry items (for men and women)
  • Blank greeting cards (to send back home)
  • Dried fruit
  • Drink mixes (sugar free)
  • Phone cards
  • I-Tunes gift cards
  • Hand warmers
  • Seasonal candy
  • Hard candy
  • Amazon.com gift cards
  • Peanuts or flavored sunflower seeds
  • Beef jerky
  • Magazines
  • Wet wipes
  • DVDs
  • Gum

For more information on dates related to other holidays, check with your local post office.