Near San Francisco, the Blue Star Moms collect things like snack bars, Chap Stick, socks and underwear.
In Santa Cruz, there's a similar effort to collect batteries, baby wipes, Christmas decorations and potato chips, then pack it all in boxes addressed "to any soldier serving in Iraq."
But across the country, most of these goodwill packages will never get there because the military says they just can't handle it all.
"We want to handle mail from families and friends, relatives, known mailers," says Mark Dedominic of the Department of Defense. "To get the mail from just the general public can overwhelm the system."
Last December, the military postal system received 8 million pounds of packages and letters, much of it addressed, "to any soldier." This year, with full combat in Fallujah and increased attacks on convoys carrying fuel, bombs and bullets, the Department of Defense is limiting the mail to items addressed by name only — and asking that they be sent only by immediate family and friends, much to the disappointment of the Blue Star Moms.
"It is so amazing to me how many there are that don't get mail, they don't get packages," says Patty Harris of Blue Star Moms. "It's really sad."
In Santa Cruz, the parents of Morgan Jacobs, a soldier killed last month by a roadside bomb, asked for donations in their son's name. Special arrangements were made for all this to be sent through the Red Cross.
"We worked with a congressman's office, [a] senator's office," says Randy Krassow of the Red Cross. "We called the White House."
But that is the exception. This Christmas, most cards and packages sent "to any soldier" will not reach any soldier at all.
This story originally was reported by ABC News' Brian Rooney in Los Angeles for World News Tonight on Nov. 14.
NOTE: Since the story aired on ABC News, the Blue Star Moms have sent nearly 1,000 boxes of holiday gifts to their children and soldiers in their units overseas. Their packages are addressed to specific soldiers so they will be delivered. The Department of Defense stresses only letters and packages with names and units will be delivered.