We owe today's U.S. service members a debt that can never be repaid. Just think of the men and women serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. They are making tremendous sacrifices to serve our nation and keep America free.

As holiday schedules get busy in the coming days and weeks, please don't forget those who have given so much.

Blue Ridge Communications invites the public to share some of the warmth of the yuletide season with Keystone Soldiers and their Stocking for Soldiers program, by sending much needed and requested food and hygiene items and Christmas cards to our men and women stationed and spending Christmas away from home in such countries as: Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

In its ninth year of operation, The Stockings for Soldiers program is 100 percent funded by public donations.

Since the recession, the donations have diminished. As a result, they sometimes have items to ship, but no money to ship them, or they have the funds, but not donations.

We would love to support our soldiers near and far. Please join Blue Ridge Communications in recognizing and thanking our defenders of freedom by donating one or more of the items below.

All Blue Ridge Communications offices will be drop off locations. Deadline to receive items is Nov. 21.

Packages go to all branches of the military and to locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea and any other troops who request support from home. All items are sorted and packed according to the requests that come directly from the troops or their families.

Items requested include:

Ÿ 16- to 24-inch Christmas stockings, hats and plastic holiday decorations. Also candy canes and Christmas candy. Chocolate can only ship from November to February.

Ÿ Power Bars, cereal bars, trail mix, granola bars and healthy snacks

Ÿ Slim Jims, beef or turkey jerky*

Ÿ Sunflower seeds and nuts

Ÿ Individual snacks like chips, crackers, cookies, cheese/cracker kits

Ÿ Small sewing kits and manicure kits

Ÿ Mens and ladies underwear in sizes small, medium and large

Ÿ Mens and ladies calf high socks or boot socks in black or white.

Ÿ Hand and foot warmers the nights are getting cold in Afghanistan!

Ÿ New or used game systems like PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360

Ÿ Video games and controllers for PS3, Wii and Xbox 360

Ÿ Small hand-held video games like poker, solitaire, slingo, etc.

Ÿ CDs and DVDs* New or used are fine. Current releases are appreciated.

Ÿ Money for shipping costs.

Items most needed or requested by the troops are marked with an asterisk.

Monetary donations are urgently needed to help ship the care packages. This is always the biggest need by far. Shipping costs have increased and it doesn't matter how much is collected for the troops, if there isn't enough money to ship it.

Shipping costs for the holiday season will exceed $50,000. Each stocking that is shipped costs about $5. There are thousands of troops who are counting on Stockings for Soldiers to send them some love from home and brighten their holidays.

Please note that the U.S. Postal Service regulations do not allow anything in aerosol cans to be shipped. Also, shipping currently takes about 14-21 days to the combat zones.

It takes about a week to get everything sorted and boxed. Please keep this in mind when you are checking expiration dates on food items, as expired food items will not be shipped.