How to Write Your First Letter
September 4, 2014
Maybe you’re thinking about joining the letter writing team and adopting a soldier, maybe you’ve already joined and haven’t written your first letter yet. Either way, sometimes writing your first letter can be a little daunting. What do you say? How do you introduce yourself? How much do you talk about you?
There are no rules to writing letters to soldiers, and as long as they come from the heart there’s really no wrong way either. Sometimes it’s just hard to get started so we asked our Soldiers’ Angels Letter Writers to give us their tips to share with new letter writers. Here’s a summary of all of their tips. You can read what they all wrote at the bottom
- Keep things light.
- Share things about yourself like hobbies or interests.
- Write about your life but keep it positive.
- Thank them for their service.
- If you have connections in the military, mention that.
- Be positive.
- Stay away from political or polarizing topics.
- Tell them what’s going on at home but stray away from things happening in the news.
- Let them know you support them.
- Your letters don’t have to be long, just write from the heart.
- Write like you speak and show your personality.
- Include questions for conversation.
- Encouraging quotes are always nice.
- Never share anything negative, personal struggles, your own thoughts about controversial subjects, or ask their opinion about controversial subjects.
- Share how you got started with Soldiers’ Angels and why you volunteer.
Read all of the comments here:
Bette: “I always wrote as though they were my own child, or brother or sister…spoke about home (not the news stories), shared our favorite foods and I always asked about their friends and comrades.”
Lisa: “Wrote a bit about my life. Thanked him, let him know how proud I was of his service, told him to extend it to all. Asked if there was ANYTHING I could do for him and his family. Turns out we are both Pastry Chefs and have rescue animals. So now we have so much to write back and forth about! Letter writing is a lost art which makes it so special.”
Pamela: “Be positive, encouraging, definitely send hope. Let them know people will be here supporting them when they get home. Ask if there are any special wishes they would like granted while they are there. “
Tracy: “You don’t always have to know what to write. Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go! Taking 5 minutes to thank them and letting them know you are praying or thinking of them…”
Cathy: “Keep it positive! Tell a little about yourself and thank them. I have written lots of letters and write just like I would talk. The main thing is, keep it light hearted, upbeat, and non-political.”
Elise: “I start off by offering my thanks for their service. I then explain to them how long I’ve been adopting/penpal and what it means to me. Then I write a short paragraph about myself. I then write a few generic questions for conversation starting. I close with an encouraging quotation. That’s my standard first letter.”
Brittany: “Tell your story. Get to know you type things. Always be positive and encouraging too.”
Micki: “Tell your soldiers thank you, that you appreciate them, and acknowledge their sacrifices.”
Mary: “Introduce yourself first. Then talk about your life a bit: hobbies, interests, passions, work and family (if you feel comfortable). Then I always just write about every day life. That’s what they want most…a touch of home. I think it’s always great to include how grateful you are for their service, but maybe not dwell on it in the first letter.”
Lori: “Introduce yourself and your family explain why you are writing and ask if you can continue to write to them. In your next letter tell them about daily stuff and funny things, stories, or even tell them about sports… most guys want to know what is happening in the sports world.”
Betsy: “I would suggest get to the point of who you are, how you got their name so they know it’s not some hoax. If you know who nominated them, mention that.”
Ginger: “Don’t be afraid to share “your story”. Be sure to thank them for their service. Include some humor but be aware that everyone has a different sense of humor. Try someone like Gary Larson or Charles Schultz.”
Sarah: “I recap my week with my family and at work. I only share happy and fun stuff to keep all the letters upbeat and positive. Add in Sunday comics or horoscopes for fun.”
Melody: “I always tell them a little about myself, thank them for their service and send them a prayer or inspirational poem. They appreciate knowing that a complete stranger takes the time to let them know we think about them and care about them. I always love it when they write back!”
Wendy: “It’s easy to write them, just keep it happy and up beat, absolutely no negativity, or politics, that’s all you have to do, keep it all up beat.”
Kathryn: “First letter should be an introduction. I talk about my family, as well as some of my more unique interests. Let the soldier know that I’m a Soldier’s Angels. I also give them my contact information so they can either respond to me via letter, email, or Facebook if they are inclined. Always ask if they have special requests of things they want or something you can do. My following letters are all about getting the soldier out of where he is for a short time. Sometimes this means talking about what I have been doing. Other times it is describing the area around me, writing stories, or describing things (like the sound of rain in the woods), or what I have been reading. Keep the letter upbeat.”
Nickie: “When my thoughts go from brain to pen to paper, it just flows. Share words that come to your heart, because if this is indeed your calling or passion, words will come. If you’re here, then it is describing what I see outside my patio, or a snowfall or a rainfall or a cloud formation in great detail, is almost a page-filler (I write big so they don’t strain their eyes). I always include stories of my dog’s antics into the letter for a laugh or two. If they’re on a ship, I tell them about my first time deep-sea fishing (always a good laugh). I thank them for the time I have to enjoy the simple pleasures, which always leads into the purpose of my letter: expressing how I feel about the freedom they’re fighting so hard to defend, a new-found patriotism, how much I appreciate and respect their exceptional character and commitment, and that there is a high level of importance to what they risking their lives to do. Never share anything negative. Never share personal struggles. Never share your own thoughts about controversial subjects or ask their opinion about controversial subjects. Never make any promises, other than to say that they’ll always have a place in your heart, and that they will never be forgotten. Mostly, they want to know that what they’re doing means something to you, and means something in the big scheme of things.”
Susan: “Start by telling them how you got their name, thank them for their service and then tell them about your life. Remember to keep opinions and political views to yourself as well as your problems. Most have enough to worry about or are worrying about their families. Only write happy things tell them about your area and weather. They respond well to pets. Most have pets at home they miss so tell them about your pets. Send a picture if you have one to share and give your email address for them to write back to you. Some will most don’t have time or are in a position where writing a letter is not possible. Most are home sick and lonesome so they like to hear about your wonderful family life. Fun things you do or did or have seen. I always end my letters with wishing the world peace so they can all come home and again thanking them for their service and sacrifices to us and this country. I buy fun stickers and put on letters like stars or hearts to jazz up the letter a little. I also due to my hand getting arthritis type my letters now And I like to use clip art to insert a little tiny picture at the end of some sentence like a dog or fish or house that goes with my story. My dog got sprayed by skunk so I told them the funny parts and put in a skunk picture they loved it. I have met many wonderful men and women. It is like Christmas to me to get a response either in writing or email. They give up so much for all of us. Give it a try you will love it. Thanks for getting involved! Remember just be happy and keep your opinions to yourself is most important. They just need a friend! Happy writing!”
Kate: “I always thank them for their service. I frequently share how I started volunteering with SA, why I do it, etc. I ask general questions about them (nothing specific such as where are you deployed but rather things like where is home when they are stateside, how long they have been in the military, etc). Whether you write a long letter or short card I think the most important is to say thank you and let them know you remember and appreciate them.”
Sarah: “I write my relationships in the army. Friends, brothers, father, uncle and husband. Thank them for their service. Definitely leave email and mailing address inside the letter in case the outer envelope gets destroyed in any way. While adopting soldiers, I usually sent a big envelope with extra envelopes, a note pad and a book of stamps letting them know they can write whoever they want with those and if it strikes them to write me back, then they have the means to do so.”
Kathy: “I kept my letters light and made sure they felt like I really wanted to know about them. I told them a little about myself, made sure my address was on the letter and enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for them.”
Diane: “I write an intro, explaining that i am and have been an SA supporter, I explain that we have military ties, though now retired. I also share in our travels that there is strong support seen in signs, banners, yard art and yellow ribbons. I share a bit about our family roots being midwest and southern now joined couple of SW base but travel often by RV. I ask them to share as much as they feel comfortable with and explain we do not share nor contact their family ever… Then Ask if their base is lacking anything or any individual interest not met, that I might be able to ship, to bring comforts of home… I do share silly antidotes about our pet or g-kids later but do mention them in the initial intro. Later in weekly letter I share what happened in prior week or are planning ahead. Like my grandaughter’s rag tag soccer team initially at beginning of season, beating the # 1 team, against which they were trounced in beginning of season. I describe places we have visited or any positive news I hear on their home state once I learn what it is. Ie, detroit lions or red wings scores. Just making it personal, as to an old friend or relative. Smatterings of everyday USA but nothing controversial or that would make them stressed further.”