The military established communication channels, including email and other mail systems, to ensure that service members and those closest to them have the ability to remain connected during deployments.
Communicating in general
Whether you're communicating with your service member by regular mail or by email, it's important to keep the following in mind:
- Be sure you have the correct address. This helps to ensure that letters, packages and email messages are delivered as efficiently as possible.
- Try not to worry or be disappointed if you don't get a quick response. Although it's important to communicate often, keep in mind that there may be times when your service member cannot respond right away due to mission responsibilities.
- Let your service member know how much you appreciate his or her response. Tell your service member how much it means for you and other members of your family when you receive a letter or an email.
- Be sure to answer any questions your service member asked in an earlier message. If you ignore questions, your service member may worry about why you didn't respond.
- Try to express yourself clearly. Remember that you won't be there in person to explain what you mean when your service member reads your letter or message.
- Be honest. You don't have to hide things or pretend that you're feeling fine when you're not. Your service member may be able to tell that there's something you're not saying.
- Remember to keep security in mind. This is important to remember when asking your service member questions about overseas missions and when sharing messages from your service member with others.
- Be creative. Letters and emails are great, but there are a lot of ways you can make them even better. If you have children, mail or scan artwork or school papers. You can send articles from the local paper or a video recording of a family gathering or a child reading, singing or playing music.
Sending letters and packages
The following tips will help you send letters and packages properly.
- Find out about mailing restrictions. You can find out more on general restrictions and regulations specific to the address or location at the United States Postal Service site or the Military Postal Service Agency site.
- Keep some addressed and stamped envelopes on hand. This can make it easier to write a quick note. You may want to send your service member pre-addressed envelopes to make it easier to send letters home.
- Consider numbering your letters. This makes it easier to keep them in order even if they don't arrive in the proper order.
- Take special care with packaging food items. Always check to make sure that any package you send meets regulations.
- Send calling cards. Look for the best rate you can get. Check the Exchange website.
- Send photos. Photographs or videos will help maintain communication. These can be just ordinary everyday pictures - nothing fancy.
- Be prepared to fill out forms that list the contents of your packages. Be sure to list all items and don't let anyone have access to your package before it's sealed.
Using email and the Internet
Email is convenient, fast and inexpensive, which makes it a great way to communicate during a deployment. These suggestions can help you make the best of this communication tool:
- Don't be too hasty. Remember not to send a sensitive or angry message through email or the Internet - it is there forever. If you are upset, wait 24 hours before forwarding a response — this way you don't regret the message later. Spend quality time in your communications.
- Check out Motomail. If your service member is in the Marine Corps or is a member of another service branch co-deployed with the Marine Corps, this free service lets you write an email message to your service member that is then printed out in hard copy and delivered — usually within 24 hours.
- Use the Internet for more than email. If you can use the Internet to stay in touch, there are a lot of things you can do beyond sending email messages. You can post pictures and messages on your own website or blog. You and your service member can also use a social networking site to stay in touch. Having access to a digital scanner will make it possible for you to send artwork or a child's report card. Always be careful what you post on the Internet - personal information or pictures can fall into the wrong hands and information can be hacked.
Helping children communicate
It's important for children to feel like they are keeping in touch with a deployed family member — they need their special time or way of communicating. Here are some ways you can help them keep that sense of connection:
- Encourage your children to send artwork or write letters. Make sure your service member sends email or letters addressed directly to the children.
- Read books to children overseas with United Through Reading. This program allows service members to read children's stories or sing songs to their children, on videotape or DVD, from installations worldwide.
- Help children find a way to communicate that works for them. Some children may like to audio record their messages, while others may like to write letters or send email. Younger children may like to communicate with pictures. Help your children explore all of the different ways they can communicate. Encourage the deployed parent to follow the children's cues by responding with a recorded message or by drawing a picture of where he or she sleeps or of a typical meal.
- Give your children their own stack of pre-addressed envelopes and paper. Try to take the time to help your children think of things that their deployed parent may like to know about.
Keeping in touch without an email or postal address
For security reasons, there may be times when you don't have an email or postal address and this may be difficult. However, it doesn't mean that communication has to end. These suggestions can help:
- Keep a journal of your daily life. Keeping a journal of family life and everyday events will help your service member stay up to date and feel a part of the family during deployments.
- Don't forget your service member's birthday or special anniversaries. It will mean a lot if you still wrap a birthday gift and get a card for birthdays even when you cannot talk. If you can't send out packages or gifts, keep them wrapped for your service member's homecoming.