Letters to Deployed Marines

Most requested single thing by Marines is letters!

If you don't have time to shop and mail a box or can't afford to do it, write a letter!


Whether you're sending a letter or a care package, enclose a self-addressed envelope with a piece of paper tucked inside. You might get a response.

Don't expect one, however. Marines are "rather busy" and usually with limited time to correspond (sometimes catching up on sleep is more appealing!). Some just don't like to write letters. Some might laid up and unable to write. Some, sad to say, feel embarrassed about their level of writing skills, which is an atrocious blot on some of our public school systems.

Make it easy to respond by putting the writing materials in their hands!

Make it easy to respond by making your letter (and your return address!) legible.

Make it easy to find your address. The return address on the envelope (or box) can be rendered illegible in the conditions overseas, the envelop could be tossed by mistake, etc. If your address isn't on the letter itself, no reply can be sent, even if the Marine wants to contact you. (More on nuts and bolts below.)

Mail from them to you is free, so there's no need to put a stamp on the self-addressed envelope.

Mail from you to them, however, does require a stamp.

Some Marines will reply by e-mail. All do not have Web access.

What to Write

First of all, thanks and appreciation. This should be the very first paragraph of your first letter to your Marine. I recommend that you use a shorter version of this idea as the closing of each your letters thereafter. Your Marine wants to know that his/her sacrifice is not only recognized by fellow citizens but held in esteem and remembered.

Your first letter should tell about yourself and your family. (See below for more.)

Your Marines wants to read happy stuff and see or conjure images that remind him or her of home. (See below for what not to write.)

Marines especially like letters and drawings from kids. Do you know a group of kids, such as a scout troop or club/sports team, a school class, a Sunday School class, vacation Bible School class, piano studio, etc.? If so, how about making it an activity for them to write a letter or draw a picture?

Of course, you first will secure the agreement of each parent before you send whatever it!

What Not to Write

Political or religious rants

Religious proselytizing

Off-color jokes or anything that might offend - - If in doubt, leave out the joke. You never know how your Marine feels about the topic.

Strong language - - Your Marine hears plenty bad language every day, as it is, so clean up the vocabulary! (Besides, his/her mama probably doesn't hold with cussin', anyway.)

Medical jeremiads - - Nobody, especially a body in a war zone, wants to hear about your Uncle Dud's hernia operation and unpleasant aftermath. Similarly, don't burden the Marine with your own organ recital.

Complaints about the weather where you are - - Are you nuts? Your Marine would give anything to fry in 100 degrees in his or her own backyard than to fry in 100 degrees in a war zone!

If you think something you are writing might be a downer or be misinterpreted, leave it out.

Letter content should be up-beat!

Streamlining the Process

If you use a computer to write, your Marine will be able to read your letter! What a concept!

What about addressing the envelope accurately? There are lots of chances to foul up the address! Military addresses are an alphabet soup kind of deal. Arcane abbreviations abound and are especially prized! If you leave out a line of the address or transpose a letter or mistype a numeral, your missive probably never will reach your Marine.

I have hit upon a system that solves both of these problems for me. I blush to suggest it might be useful to you, too. Here 'tis.

I set up my letter as I would a business letter. As the "letterhead," my name and address, including my e-mail addy, are at the top of the page, so if the envelope is lost, my Marine knows how to reach me. My Marine's name and address are in the customary place below the letterhead. When I put the letter into a business-sized "window" envelope, the Marine's address shows through.

I save the template as a separate file and call it up when I start a new letter, making a separate template for each Marine. An added benefit is that I must wade through the soup only once to check for accuracy, and then my template is good for the duration.

Why repeat steps that your computer can replicate?

I suggest you save each letter and put the Marine's last name and date in the file name. Now you know when you wrote to whom.

Your Introduction Letter

Your first letter is also your "hook." Your Marine, who generally might not be inclined to respond, just might be persuaded to squeeze out a little time to jot you a note if he or she sees something you have in common, so be a little bit specific. Don't say you "like the outdoors." Say you "love trout fishing" or "camp in Alaska every July".

Summarize information about you and your family, but don't rattle on in detail. This isn't a Christmas letter! You don't want your Marine inundated with information about people he or she doesn't even know [yet] or presented with such detail that he or she feels intimidated about responding. Something like this - - "My family and I live in [place]. My son [name] is [age] and lives in [place]. He's a [job]. I'm a [job] by profession." If there's a Marine connection, mention that - - "My oldest daughter is a Marine, stationed in Kuwait."

Ask about the Marine's family, home town, job, what he/she likes to do in spare time, music preferences, and so on. Toss out some general topics so your Marine has an idea what to write you about him- or herself.

How Often to Write

Every day is certainly not too often!

Evergreen Topics

Some days will be "slow news days," and just about all you have to say is that you got up and went to work. A letter like this isn't worth the stamp! What you need to fatten up those days' letters is an "evergreen". These are stories that are timeless. Stories about pet antics, a beautiful sunset, and so on are of interest no matter what time of year it is.

Where do you get these stories? You can write them before you need them, of course, but the likelihood is that you'll be writing a letter to one Marine and discover that a paragraph or two of what you just wrote might be good in the letter to the other Marine. If this is the case, excise the little story and save it as a separate file, identifying the topic in the file name. (I number each story, too, to keep the files playing nicely.) Like so - -

story 2 dog & wading pool

To keep everything straight (so you don't send the same story twice!), particularly if you are writing to more than one Marine, incorporate the story identification in the file name of the letter. Like so - -

Jones 8-8-06 story 2

And - -

Smith 9-5-06 story 2

Now, you know both Marines have heard the story about the dog drinking from the wading pool.

When you use an evergreen, you may need to tweak it a little. If the action, as you wrote it in the original letter, took place in the summer, you don't want it to read "Yesterday we went to the beach and forgot the sunscreen" if it's December! (Unless you're vacationing in the Caribbean!)

Be sure to read the entire letter for similar gaffes! (And you are running your spell-checker, yes?)


How about an e-card? These are great if your Marine has e-mail/Web access.

Here's a site with free patriotic ones:

Independence Day cards

a general patriotic card

A variety of sophistication levels at this site. Yes, some are pretty cheesy (don't be put off by the silly yellow smiley ball. Keep going!), but some are quite nice.

For sophistication, British artist Jacquie Lawson has some fabulous patriotic cards. In fact, you may have received one, either from someone who subscribes (I do!) or when one was made available in a beta version for public use.

There are many other e-card sites, so have fun surfing!


Your Marine probably would like to see a photo of your or your family or your pet or the beautiful pine forest near where your daughter goes to college. You could mail a printed copy, of course, but why not look into a Web-based site that allows you to upload your pictures for viewing.

How Long to Keep One-Sided Correspondence Going

Sometimes you'll write and never get anything in response. After a while you may feel as though you're sending your letters off into The Void.

Should you keep writing?

If you don't receive any kind of response in what you think is a reasonable time, don't feel obligated to continue sending letters. You choose the life of a one-way correspondence. Your farewell letter should say that this is the last time you'll be writing and wish the Marine well. Or that you'll "wait on further correspondence" until you "hear" from the Marine. Don't just stop writing, cold turkey.

For more information on deployed Marines, see the files on

what to send to your Marine
packing boxes for shipment
adopting a Marine or a service member in another branch
easy (free) charts to use in a cross stitch kit

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Last updated August 22, 2006.