WASHINGTON -- Tens of thousands of U.S. military men and women serving overseas will be unable spend the holiday season with their families this year.
With that sobering fact in mind, the American Red Cross and award-winning Christian recording artist Amy Grant are asking people across the nation help to ensure America's heroes feel appreciated this Christmas.
Holiday Mail for Heroes
Three years ago, Walter Reed Army Medical Center found itself drowning in Christmas cards of "thanks" addressed to recovering veterans. When the Army called on the Red Cross to help distribute the cards, "Holiday Mail for Heroes" was born.
Grant is a member of the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet and a spokesperson for the Holiday Mail program. This year, she's asking at least one million Americans to purchase or create a card and send it to the Red Cross.
Sending the greetings to the humanitarian group will ensure they reach an active service member or veteran. The mail-stream company Pitney Bowes will scan the mail to make sure it's safe.
"I think some people hear about this program and might go 'Ohhhh, a letter!" Grant said. "I have to sit down and write something genuine?' What a gift that each of us has to say, 'What do I really think?'"
"What would I say to a disabled veteran," she continued. "A young man, he's 25 and he's a double amputee and he served for me."
"And I tell you what, if you just take a minute to think what, how you really feel. It's hard to not be emotional," she said.
Service members who've spent the holidays in war zones say letters from home keep them going - even if they've never met the writer.
"Why do the people join the military and go through the hard times and risk life and limb? The answer to that question is to defend Americans and defend our way of life," Brig. Gen. Richard L. Simcock, II told CBN News.
"And the only way that we can be stopped is if we think or doubt that the American public is not behind us," he added.
While imagining service men and women missing their churches at Christmas, Grant designed her card with a church window framing a nativity and the words "I Believe."
Kicking off a New Tour
Although the singer grew up in the church, Grant said she feels closest to God in nature - not music. Still, she noted, "my whole foundation of faith was shaped by the songs that we sang."
The Grammy Award winner, who turns 50 years old on Thanksgiving Day, has just released a new CD titled "Somewhere Down the Road."
She will also be kicking off a tour Jan. 1 with her friend and fellow recording artist Michael W. Smith - another Grammy Award winner who got his start playing keyboard in Grant's band.
After decades in the spotlight, Grant said she has yet to tire of performing or touring.
"You know, I love it more now than I ever have, and it doesn't matter to me if it's an arena, or the steps of the Red Cross building, or the song writing class that I was leading for 4th grade at a school in Nashville," she said.
"I don't know what to say," she added. "I've loved this since I was a kid, and I can't imagine doing anything else."
Grant indicated that she hopes her celebrity status helps ensure at least one million of America's heroes receive holiday mail this Christmas.
You can find out how to send a holiday email to heroes by visiting the Red Cross Web site.
Send your "Holiday Mail for Heroes" to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD