Friday, 14 December 2012 11:47

Ralston soldiers recall lonely Christmases made easier by thoughts from home

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Ralston soldiers recall lonely Christmases made easier by thoughts from home Photo courtesy Canada Post

For most of those who celebrate Christmas, one of their favourite aspects is spending time with friends and family. Unfortunately for those 1,250 Canadian Forces personnel who are overseas in 2012, that’s not reality.

One way those who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be with loved ones at Christmas can treat someone who is deployed with troops overseas is to send them some mail. Canada Post has a free mail delivery program for those sending mail to those serving.
Canadian Forces Base Base Commander (742 Detachment Suffield) Lieutenant-Colonel Doug Claggett joined the Forces in 1980. He has received correspondence while on an operational tour.
“In every one of my deployments so far, I have received letters,” explained Claggett. “I love the letter-writing campaign. And it’s not always Christmas; it could be for other events such as Canada Day or Remembrance Day. It’s always fairly significant for the soldier. It just means someone was willing to put pen to paper. Those who have loved one and kids at Christmas, it’s a little more pointed too.
“And in fact, this past Remembrance Day, there was a writing campaign done and I had received letters from a local elementary school. The stack was three-and-a-half-inches thick ... everybody appreciates the thoughts.”
CFB Suffield’s Cpt. Chris Stobbs was posted in Afghanistan with an operational material liaison team from Oct. 2009-May 2010. When he was there he appreciated the correspondence.
“We received letters from kids we didn’t know,” explained Stobbs. “They were just general, talked about themselves, asked how we were and hoped we returned safely.
“It was extremely beneficial while away from friends and family. You’re there to do a job, but there’s fear and loneliness too. It’s good to know people back there (in Canada) are thinking about you.
“Within my unit, we tried to get people to write back to the kids, but with us working so (many) long hours, it was difficult.”
The rules are specific. Letters and parcels are delivered free of charge as long as it’s to a specific member of the military.
According to Canada Post, “last year, from Oct. 17, 2011 until the end of January 2012 close to 40,000 kilograms of mail were sent to our deployed troops, the majority of which was sent through the Free Mail to the Troops program. This year, Canada Post will accept regular parcels free of charge to designated Canadian Forces Bases overseas from Oct. 15, 2012 until Jan. 11, 2013. Letter mail weighing up to 500 grams to deployed troops can be sent free of charge until Dec. 31, 2013.
That includes members of the Canadian Forces serving at locations such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Middle East and South Sudan. Canadian Forces members serving on any of the deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are also included in the offer.”
The address to send to a specific person is: (Name of soldier); 2701 Riverside Dr.; Suite N0880; Ottawa, ON; K1A 0B1
However, if the letter is to a stranger and the writer would like to see someone receive some mail, the appropriate postage has to be attached. Canada Post and the department of defence will ensure the mail gets to those who need it. The address to the stranger: Any Canadian Forces Member; Op Attention: Kabul; PO Box 5140 Stn Forces; Belleville, ON  K8N 5W6.
Whether it’s to someone specific or a complete stranger, those deployed appreciate it. For those who have few thinking about them, it means something special.
“Because there’s an influx of it, it ensures those people who are single ... get that letter,” said Stobbs. “(During) remote outpost, mail was accessible at specific times during the week and some people get mail on a weekly basis ... it was a great program and very beneficial.”
“When I was in Afghanistan in my last deployment, I received a box which had a 6’X8’ banner and it was done and signed by residents at an old-age home,” explained Claggert. “I dropped a letter back to them to say ‘thank you’ and it was appreciated. It all means something. Every bit of it, it means something special to everybody.”

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor

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