By Herb Weisbaum ConsumerMan
msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/6/2007 12:17:57 PM ET 2007-12-06T17:17:57

I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge, but don’t waste your time or postage mailing a holiday card to a recovering soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Maybe you’ve seen the e-mail going around. It suggests that you send a Christmas card to a hero.

There are a few versions of this e-mail out there, this one being the most common:

When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

If you approve of the idea, please pass it along to your e-mail list.

It’s a great idea, but unfortunately if you send something addressed this way, it won’t be delivered. So please, don’t forward this e-mail.

The U.S. Postal Service will not deliver any letter, post card, or package that is not addressed to a specific individual. Anything sent to “A Recovering Soldier,” “Any Wounded Soldier,” or “Any Service Member” is unacceptable.

“We cannot accept any mail that is not specifically addressed to an individual or an organization at the medical center,” says Terry Goodman of Walter Reed.

Sometimes one of these letters will make it through to the medical center. If that happens, it is returned to sender. Goodman says officials are just following Department of Defense policy designed to ensure the safety of patients and staff at all military hospitals.

And don’t try to contact Walter Reed or any other military medical facility to get the name of a wounded service member to write. Because of medical privacy regulations, hospital officials  can’t give out that information.

So what can you do?

Walter Reed suggests visiting the “America Supports You” Web site where you can make a donation to one of the more than 300 non-profit organizations dedicated to helping U.S. troops and their families.

Other resources:

If you want to do something for the military men and women from your area, contact your local military base or the local National Guard or military reserve unit.

Is it worth making the extra effort to find the proper way to show your support? Walter Reed spokesman Terry Goodman says the wounded men and women recovering there appreciate the outpouring of concern and care. “They really, really enjoy and love the support they’re getting from their fellow countrymen.”

More information:
Support a recovering American soldier (.pdf file)

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