We’ve talked about what not to write to the troops in letters and we’ve talked about what to write to family and friends in letters. Now we’re going to talk about writing to the adopted troops. These are the service member’s we want to write to even though we don’t know them. They are the troops who aren’t receiving mail, or the ones we just want to write to to brighten their day.
It’s not always obvious what to write to someone you’ve never met, you probably will never meet, and may not even hear back from. I’ll put a good guess on here that if you’re reading this your motive to write to troops you’ve never met isn’t to create a lifelong penpal and friendship (though that would be awesome if it happened!), your goal is probably to say thank you to someone who is serving in our military, who is away from home, and who you want to make smile, even if it’s just for a moment.
If those are your motives, then thank you! I’m not even a soldier and I can say if I received a letter from a stranger that was uplifting and interesting I’d have a smile on my face too, no matter how horrible my day was. That might just be me, but I’d like to think anyone would smile to receive a letter from someone like this.
To help you write a fantastic letter that doesn’t just reiterate the mundane details of your everyday life, I have some suggestions on what you can write to help make our troops smile. I’m also going to give you some resources if you’re not sure where to adopt a soldier to write to. Lets start with some ideas on what to write first.
What to write to soldiers we don’t know personally
Writing to someone you’ve never met can be daunting. You don’t know their interests, you don’t know if they’ll be interested in the same things you’re interested in. How much personal information should you share, do they really care what kind of ice cream you like? What if they can’t get ice cream and they love it, would that be absolutely horrible to talk about in a letter?
Before you get frazzled with all of the details, my suggestion is to take a deep breathe and not put too much focus on the what if’s. Write to our troops, be yourself, and I’m sure they’ll love the letter no matter what you write.
My first tip, to help you out is in this case don’t just write a letter that’s a laundry list of random facts about yourself.
- I like to play baseball
- My favorite color is deep purple.
- I have 2 cats, a dog, a parrot and an iguana.
- Tacos are the best food ever!
Ok, I take that back. Go ahead and write that laundry list of random facts about yourself, but that’s not going to be your letter. That list is going to become your bouncing off point for topics to write about. Here’s how it works.
Instead of just telling the person you’re writing to that you like baseball and leaving it at that. Tell a story about it. Write your entire letter with the focus on baseball. Example:
I love to play baseball. It’s my favorite game in the world. Do you like baseball? I play first base, though I’d love to be a pitcher some day. My dad has been playing catch with me lately to help me get better. Last week we were playing and I threw the ball so hard it hit my neighbors car and the car alarm went off. It scared me so much because I thought I was in trouble. My dad told me I needed to go talk to my neighbor about it. I told her I was sorry, and I’d do what I could to pay for the damage. She went to check it out and it didn’t look like there were any dents, so she said it was ok and just asked that I be more careful with that strong pitching arm. I still felt bad, but it was a great feeling when she told me I had a strong pitching arm! I really think I’m getting better.
I wrote that one from more of a perspective of a child because I know a lot of people are looking for some examples for classrooms and other kids to write. However, the same technique works for adults as well. If you love coffee, talk about the things you observed the last time you were in a coffee shop. Talk about your favorite drink. Did someone approach you and talk to you? Did you witness something funny? Tell a story of some kind and it will take the soldier you’re writing to into their imagination as you paint the picture for them.
Each time you write, just go back to your list and you’ll have an endless supply of topics! Remember, your letter doesn’t have to be extremely long to be meaningful.
Tip number 2: Include the soldier in the letter to help make a connection. This can be as simple as asking a question related to what you’re talking about, just like I did in the above example by asking if the recipient liked baseball too. You can even ask if they’ve had an experience with something, such as fixing a car if your story is about how your car broke down, or even if they like to get out and do yard work. Keep them connected just as though you were having a face to face conversation.
Tip number 3: Please remember we’re not writing to soldiers we don’t know just to find a soul mate. Please make sure your intentions when writing to our troops are in favor of boosting the morale of our soldiers and not self serving as a potential way to find a boy/girl friend. I’m pretty sure this won’t be your intent, but I wanted to throw it out there because people have done this before and it can cause a lot of stress for our troops and in some cases unnecessary drama. Remember, our troops main focus is on their mission. Our letters are there to lift their spirits and let them know we’re supporting them.
Letter Writing Topic Idea List
I know that not everyone is going to be able to sit down and create a list of 20 or 30 things, so sometimes a little creative inspiration is needed. Here’s a list of some random things that might be in your life in some way, shape or form. Use this list to create some ideas or stories to share with the soldier you’re writing too.
- Local events
- TV Shows
- Favorite Foods
- Home Remodeling
- Community Service/Volunteer Work
- Local Attractions
- Video Games
To give you an idea of how I might use this list to create my own letter topic list, I could write about how we’re having trouble keeping the rabbits out of everything except our tomatoes this year. Cars: I could tell the story of how the wheel on my niece’s car practically fell off, or how the wheel did fly of of my car when I was a teenager, or even how much I love my Jeep and my plans to go to the Jeep Jamboree sometime in the future. Local Events: Here in Omaha we’re hosting the College World Series, again, and I can write about my experiences with it. Local Attractions: We have the #1 zoo in the world here in Omaha, so there are a lot of things I could write about from funny things that happen while we’re there to telling about the new African Grasslands that’s going in.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a great way to show you how you can brainstorm some of your own letter topics to a soldier, just from a simple prompt.
No matter what you decide to write, the troops are going to be happy to receive your letter. Have fun with it, keep it positive and upbeat and you’re sure to make someone, somewhere smile.
Where Can I Find a Soldier to Adopt
This is a common question I receive, and I’ll be honest. I’ve never adopted a soldier I didn’t know. I’ve helped organizations pack care packages for the troops, and they take care of all the mailing. I’ve written to several soldiers I personally know, but I’ve never adopted a soldier I didn’t know so I did some research for you. I have listed some organizations that will help you find a soldier to write too. Please be aware some organizations may ask you to provide them the letter and they’ll mail it off. Don’t take offense to this. Our soldiers are often moved from one location to the next, so an address you have today may not be good tomorrow. Also, keeping locations and addresses quiet is often in the soldier’s best interest for security purposes.
I haven’t personally worked with any of the resources provided below and I can’t guarantee their legitimacy or quality. If you have any experience with any of them, please share it in the comments below to help others make an informed decision on which organization will be the best for them to partner with when adopting a soldier to write to. Also, if you know of any other legitimate organizations to add to the list, please share them in the comments so I can add them on!
- Adopt a US Soldier
- Soldiers’ Angels
- Any Soldier (this may just be care packages)
- Adopt a Hero (currently not facilitating adoptions, but I’m adding it in case they start up again)
- Adopt a Platoon
- Operation Adopt a Soldier (I think this one is care packages only as well)
- Operation Soldier Assist
- Red Cross (get in touch with your local Red Cross for more information)
You can find additional resources, tips and mailing information directly from Military.com.
I hope these resources help to get you started, and please let me know if you see any changes needing to be made to the above information. I would love to hear about other links, bad links, and your opinions and experiences working with the organizations that help us support our troops through letters and care packages.
Thank you for being willing to write to our troops, whether you know them or not. It’s important they know we’ve got their back and appreciate all they do for us. Thank you for being there for our troops!
Share your ideas about what to write to adopted soldiers we’ve never met in the comments below. Let’s help create some amazing letters for our troops to read!