Being deployed to Iraq had its ups and downs, but receiving packages from home definitely made the time I spent there less stressful.
The best part is, through a few great programs, anyone can send a care package and you don’t even need to know the soldier receiving it.
Whether it’s a loved one or someone you’ve never met, we’ve put together a useful guide on what to include, what to avoid and how to send your care package overseas.
Some of the best care packages I received were the ones that had practical items in it. We don't have a whole lot of room for clutter, so sometimes the things that are most important to us are the most useful things that help us do our job.
Don't forget to seal everything in plastic zip-lock bags. This protects your care package from the elements and the soldier from receiving snacks that taste like soap.
We're on our feet a lot when we're deployed, so some of the best items were those that helped keep us dry, clean and comfortable. Items like:
I was stationed in the Middle East and our goggles often were clouded by dirt and sand in the air. Instead of relying on a t-shirt to clean them, lens cleaning cloths and small bottles of glass cleaner come in handy.
Also, baby wipes and sunscreen were plentiful for us on our base, but your service member might need these.
For as many moments of action service members face, there's plenty of downtime as well. If you're twiddling your thumbs and waiting while in the US, you have the luxury of pulling out your smartphone and killing a little bit of time. Overseas, we don't always have that luxury, so we have to have our own fun.
Some items to consider include:
Really anything that could help decompress from a stressful day and focus on something else.
The best way to most anyone's heart is through their stomach, and deployed service members are no different.
While there's enough food to go around on base, much of it can be a little bland, and the variety is lacking. Try including some of the following:
As with anything you send, it needs to be non-perishable. Sending homemade cookies or soft candies halfway around the world just won't cut it. And please don't send food in the same package as you do shampoo or other toiletries — there's nothing worse than getting some treats from home covered in soap.
While all of the above are great, sometimes we just need an extra boost of confidence from home. While emails are convenient, they don't have the same poignancy and convey the same emotion as a hand-written letter.
While we're away, remember to take videos of everything: baby's first steps, parties, family get-togethers, and even just lounging around the house. Put some of those on a USB drive and send it, too.
Not everything is suitable for a care package. Here’s a few things to avoid:
Overall, keep in mind that whatever you send may not make it in the condition you expect. Along the way, things might get wet, break, freeze or be in shipping containers for a period of time.
Even if you don’t have family or friends overseas, you can still send a care package to a deployed soldier. The DOD has vetted and recommends the following non-profits: https://dod.defense.gov/Resources/Community-Resources/carepackages/.