Last year at Christmas time, the U.S. had 1.3 million troops on active duty, with more than 450,000 stationed overseas in not-so-glamorous travel destinations. The United States has 800 military bases in more than 70 countries; in contrast, Britain, France, and Russia maintain about 30 foreign bases combined.

Since we can’t stop time to allow for a homecoming, several groups and amazing individuals have sprouted up over the past decade with a united goal in sending gifts of love and home to soldiers in the midst of deployment.

One such group, Any Soldier, began when Army Sergeant Brian Horn was deployed to Iraq in 2003. His parents routinely sent care packages every week – which he, in turn, shared with those men and women of his unit who otherwise went without such gifts. His parents upped their game and began to address future boxes to “Attn: Any Soldier,” and within a few short months, started an organization that today serves thousands of troops.

Other charities including Hugs for Heroes and Stockings for Soldiers are also on the frontlines in helping to make a merry moment for those far from home.

Kids For Kindness

Soldiers overseas also got letters from children last year – filled with gratitude and cheer.  A local country music radio station in Arizona partnered up with Legacy Traditional Schools for the Letters from Home project. A total of 14,000 letters, gathered from 16 different school campuses in Arizona and Nevada, headed overseas.

Students sent thankful messages. As Anthony Martinez, a fifth grader, wrote, “Very few people are as helpful and willing as you are. If there were more people like you, our country would be an amazing place. Your job is hard and dangerous, but you still do it for us.”

Take A Breath

Americans are in a last-minute Christmas frenzy to hang their perfect decorations, purchase the coveted material gifts, and set tables for small villages – not necessarily for families, but for others to ooh and ahh over, and comment with likes and heart emojis on social media.

And the reason we are able to boast and parade and speak our minds is not a done deal, for our freedoms must continually be protected at all costs. Our men and women who bravely, willingly, selflessly keep our nights silent and cups filled with good cheer should be thanked this Christmas and every day of the year.

Take a breath and say a prayer for our boots on the ground. And dream of a day that all soldiers will be in-country and able to celebrate peace on earth.