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Holiday season shipping cutoff looms for overseas military

The postal service is expected to process more than 16.2 million pounds of mail for military destinations this holiday season. Forum News Service file photo

DICKINSON, N.D. -- As the Christmas season approaches, the men and women of the United States Postal Service -- Santa’s hardest-working elves -- are seeing a noticeable increase in activity for addresses overseas.

Jolyn Hardcastle, lead sales clerk at the Dickinson Post Office, warns of the approaching holiday shipping deadline for overseas military and diplomatic service members.

“The deadline for mailing cards in time to reach deployed service members is December 11 and the deadline for priority mail express military service is December 18,” Hardcastle said. “Failing to mail off packages and cards by the deadline doesn’t necessarily mean that the items won’t reach your loved ones overseas by Christmas, but chances are they won’t. It’s always a good idea to try and get it in before the deadline because the holidays are important to your loved ones.”

Thousands of men and women in the nation’s military and diplomatic corps are serving abroad during the holidays. Mail is a great way to stay connected with them by sending cards, letters, presents and care packages for the festive season.

The Postal Service is offering reduced prices on its largest priority mail flat rate box for mail being sent to APO, FPO and DPO destinations this holiday season.

“To ensure timely delivery of holiday wishes by Christmas, we are recommending that cards and packages being sent to military addresses overseas take place by the deadline,” Hardcastle said. “Our large flat rate boxes are $2 off to military addresses and will run $17.40. These boxes can hold 70 pounds of goods.”

Hardcastle reminds Postal Service users that some items are prohibited from being mailed through the mail.

“If you have any questions about whether or not the contents of your shipment can be shipped by the postal service, consult our online shipping restrictions list,” she said. “Prohibited items include alcohol, ammunition, explosives, gasoline, marijuana -- medical or otherwise, nail polish, tobacco products, fresh produce and perfumes containing alcohol. Most people are sending clothing or snacks to their loved ones, but we want to be sure that you don’t violate any customs laws.”

The Postal Service has created a free military care kit based on items most frequently requested by military families. The kit contains address labels, tape, boxes and customs forms.

“To order the kit, call 800-610-8734,” Hardcastle said. “If you prefer to send your own packages then please use good strong boxes and strong clear packing tape. No duct tape, masking tape, string or wire. No old liquor store boxes or any boxes that indicate that there is alcohol inside can be mailed. If you are shipping anything that is battery operated, ensure that there are no lithium batteries included. Include a return address on the parcel and never use holiday wrapping paper around your parcel because it’s very thin and isn’t suitable for our high speed sorting machines.”

To mail packages to a service member, the Postal Service recommends that the service member’s full name, unit and APO/FPO/DPO address with a 9-digit zip code is used.

Additionally, it is advised that mailers do not write the country name where the service member is stationed in the address.

For more information about holiday season shipping, visit