WASHINGTON - With the holidays coming up fast, now is the time to consider mailing early, especially to loved ones overseas, said Peter Graeve, a retired Soldier who is now with the Military Postal Service Agency.
Despite the popularity of sending cards via the Internet and chatting on social media, Soldiers really like to receive something they can put in their hands, he said. "It's one of those traditions that's still with us. They still appreciate getting letters and packages."
Graeve said the volume of letters and packages increases this time of year due to gifts being sent by spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, family and friends. But he said in addition to that, care packages seem to be especially popular.
Care packages include things like chocolates, soap and toothbrushes. "Even though they have it over there, the Soldiers really seem to appreciate receiving the items anyway," he said.
Although there are fewer Soldiers in remote areas of Afghanistan and other countries, there are still some in outposts that don't have Internet access, he said. These Soldiers especially look forward to mail call.
Getting your package there on time
To get mail to a Soldier by Christmas at APO/FPO/DPO AE 090-092, 094-098, 340, or 962-966, the latest a package can be sent to arrive on time is Dec. 17 - that means senders have to pay for Express mail. To send them earlier - and pay less - senders can put them in the mail by Dec. 10, and pay for either 1st Class or Priority mail.
Priority mail to APO/FPO/DPO AE 093 must be sent by Dec. 3.
The deadline for Parcel Post to all locations mentioned is Nov. 12.
The deadline for SAM parcels for all locations mentioned is Nov. 26. SAM parcels are paid at the Parcel Post postage rate with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.
The deadline for PAL for all locations mentioned is Dec. 3. PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage.
All classes of mail addressed to FPO/APO addresses must use the nine-digit ZIP code to ensure delivery. Mail not addressed correctly will be returned to the sender as undeliverable.
It is recommended that customers check with their local civilian or military post office for information on size restrictions and the possible need for customs declaration forms.
As a reminder, some items cannot be mailed. Examples include switchblade knives, pornography, controlled substances, and explosive or incendiary devices. If in doubt as to what can or cannot be sent through the mail, contact your local civilian or military post office.
Some other tips include choosing a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents, and ensuring that old labels and markings on used boxes are covered.
Senders should also be sure to use adequate tape to seal their packages, and reinforce the seams with two-inch wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape.
As a final note, customers are cautioned that packages must not be mailed in boxes that have markings related to any type of hazardous material, such as bleach, alcohol, or cleaning fluids. Parcels found by the U.S. Postal Service with such markings or labels on the outside of the box will not be processed.