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Dale and Sherrie Clayville, Bountiful, are busy wrapping Christmas packages, but they aren't starting the holiday season too early.

They and other Utahns who want to send letters or packages to service men and women involved in Operation Desert Shield in the Middle East will have to mail them within the next few weeks to ensure delivery by Christmas.Postal officials say the deadline for first class packages is Nov. 16 and the deadline for first class letters and cards is Nov. 26. Parcel Airlift mail must be sent by Nov. 10, and the deadline for space available mail is Nov. 3.

The Clayvilles have already sent packages of food and gifts to their son, Kevin, a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and they want to send him several more packages in the next two weeks.

Kevin Clayville, 34, has been in the Middle East since August. His exact location is classified because of the nature of his job. He is a member of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing based in Tono-pah, Nev.

A native of Bountiful, the airman has been in the Air Force for 17 years and has been all over the world, his parents said.

"He writes that he is working 12 hours a day seven days a week," Sherrie Clayville said.

"He misses his wife, Roberta, and their two girls, 10 and 7, who live in Las Vegas, and he looks forward to letters and packages from home," she said.

Clayville wrote his mother and father recently that "I am getting real bored here . . . and I'm homesick on and off . . . but I just got your box of chocolate chip cookies, so I can handle anything now."

He wrote his parents that he has played softball after work and has been persuaded to drink camel's milk. "It tastes like rotten yogurt," he said. "I've lost 10 pounds since I got here," he wrote in one of his latest letters home.

His mother said her son has not complained about the heat, although she has read news reports that it often gets as hot as 130 degrees in the Middle East. "I think the worst thing about being over there is the culture shock he and the other service men and women have experienced and the boredom.

"There just doesn't seem to be much to do for fun, so I know cards and letters and packages from home would cheer up all the American military in the Middle East," she said.

She suggests people not write about problems at home or about anything that might worry the service person. "They want to hear about the good things that are going on at home, and they want to know that we love and support them," she said.

In one of the packages she and her husband sent their son recently were beef jerky, nuts, cookies, dried fruits, chewing gum, a Frisbee, a deck of Uno cards and a current Readers Digest magazine.

Saudi Arabian customs restrictions placed on mail going to the troops include: no pictures of nude or semi-nude persons, no pornography or sexual items, no pork or pork byproducts, no alcohol, no religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith (Bibles and other religious articles can be sent on an individual basis, but large mass mailings of religious materials should be avoided), no unauthorized political materials and no firearms.

Salt Lake City Postal Service officials said Thursday that normal U.S. domestic postage applies for all mail going to Operation Desert Shield troops.

For example, it costs 25 cents to mail a first class letter (one ounce) and 15 cents to mail a postcard. It costs $2.40 to send a two-pound package there at the first class/priority mail rate.


(Additional information)

Be sure mail is packaged right

- Use a sturdy carton large enough to accommodate the contents.

- Use some form of cushioning to protect articles. Seal the parcel securely. Use pressure-sensitive tape. Avoid using brown wrapping paper, cord or string on the outside.

- Print the service member's name and address on the lower right portion of the package on one side only. It should include name, rank and service number, military organization or unit, and the APO/FPO address (available from the service member's U.S. base).

- Put a return address in the upper left-hand corner of the package. Also, include a return address on a piece of paper on the inside of the package.

- Remember the heat of the Saudi Arabian climate when considering what to send. Temperatures in the desert regularly exceed 100 degrees.

- Popular items include audio-cassette tapes, newspaper clippings, gum and hard candy.

- Attach a parcel post customs declaration form (form 2966-A, available at local post offices) on all packages.

- Priority first class mail is the fastest delivery, generally arriving within five to 10 days.