Handle with Care: How to Create An Epic Care Package to Send Your Deployed Service Member
If you’ve ever had a loved one deployed overseas, you know just how important care packages are. You know because your loved one likely told you how much
it helped as well as how the things you sent were utilized – as reminders of home they hung on their bunk posts or carried into the field, as some unheard
of but remarkably resourceful way to fix a wonky table leg, or simply, as something that boosted their morale and the morale of their fellow troops.
So “the why” is there, present and resounding: care packages provide both comfort and joy to our deployed service members. “The what” is trickier, however
– what can you send that will turn your loved one’s dark day into something bright? How can you make your care package epic!?
Going at it alone can be more of a frustrating experience than an enjoyable one. But that’s why we’re here. That’s why this list is here. On the pages that
follow, you’ll find suggestions on what to send to your loved one, as well as how to package it. Because, as you’ll find out, the thing they remember most
just may be the presentation itself!
The main thing to consider here is shelf life. Meaning: stick to food items that are either a) dry goods or b) non-perishable. Sadly, something like a
bundle of bananas won’t make it unscathed (or fresh) to its destination. Depressing as that may be, trust us, your service member will love receiving the
canned pears you send, or the bag of rice. Because, at least when they’re out in the field, they’re eating from a vacuum-sealed MRE; they’ll gladly welcome
the change in flavor.
Another important thing to remember when selecting food to send is that at times, your service member will have limited means to make the food. In other
words, sending something that requires a conventional oven and several baking dishes may not be the best option.
Other foods to consider: breakfast cereals, honey, instant oatmeal, boxed and/or canned soup, boxed potatoes, cans of tuna, beef jerky, crackers, nuts,
granola bars, raisins, various candies.
Here’s where you and your service member can get a little more creative – you with the spices you select to send, and your service member with what they
select to put on the standard-issued food. For example, if your service member likes a little kick in their food, send them some cayenne pepper. They
prefer something zestier? Send some garlic salt. Believe us when we say that they’ll cherish it. Why? Because spices aren’t always readily available to
them. Also; spices take up very little room, both in the box you’ll send and in what they’re temporarily calling home.
Other spices to consider: salt, pepper, cumin, lemon pepper, basil, dill weed, cinnamon, paprika, parsley, sage, ginger, rosemary, thyme.
Remember when we said that care packages can turn a dark day into something bright? Hygiene is precisely where a shift like that can occur.
While deployed, your service member is physically active and, on occasion, not even a shower is readily available. Dealing with that, as well as with the
elements (sun, wind, dust, dirt), can grind a person down. Hygiene products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash can do wonders in making your service member
feel more, for lack of a better term, human. Foot powder or ointment will help take care of the irritation their boots keep giving them. A pack of aspirin
will make it so they don’t have to go to Medical for a headache. The list can go on and on.
Other hygiene products to consider: deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, chapstick/lip balm, baby wipes, cough drops.
-Odds & Ends
We promise: a roll of duct tape can go far. Like, really far. And so can something like headphones, for when your service member feels like being alone for
a while with their music. For this section of the care package, think of the moments when your service member could be “in a pinch” meaning: there’s
something they need that wouldn’t be regularly provided by their branch.
Other odds & ends to consider: plastic baggies (for storage), pens, pencils, notepads, can opener, batteries, socks.
What various forms of entertainment can provide for our deployed service members is escape. Keep that in mind when selecting DVDs to send overseas. For
example, it may not be the best idea to send along movies like The Hurt Locker, or Black Hawk Down. Instead, consider sending their favorite comedy, or a
boxed set of their favorite TV show. You may just find your service member and their fellow troops requesting the next season!
Poker? High-Low? Euchre? Whatever the name of the game is, give your service member and their fellow troops the opportunity to play it. It’s great for an
escape, for making friends, and for team-building. Plus, it takes up very little physical space.
Assuming there’s a CD player somewhere in the vicinity, feel free to send those. But also consider sending an iTunes gift card that your service member can
activate when they’re near an internet connection. That way, they can download what they like, when they like it.
Is your service member a bookworm? Even if they aren’t, a book can be an awesome thing to send. Try to find something that not only will spark their
interest, but something that, like moves, can provide some escape. Maybe even try sending them the first book of a series. If they like it, they’ll let you
know and have something to look forward to with the next care package.
Car magazines? Bodybuilding? Fantasy sports? Send ‘em! It doesn’t have to end there, though, with major publications you’ll find on newsstands. Don’t
forget about how much fun one can have with a book of word finds or crossword puzzles, both of which you’ll likely find at your local dollar store.
Will your loved one be overseas for Christmas? For Valentine’s Day? Both? Well, prepare yourself to send along some decorations. For Christmas, send
Christmas lights, or send them a stocking they can hang on their bedpost. For something like the 4th of July, send along twirlers or miniature
American Flags (don’t send fireworks…. we repeat: NOT SEND FIREWORKS!).
Honestly, it seems as if there is always a holiday around the corner, which makes it easier to string your care package together with a theme in mind. Just
make sure to peek at the calendar now and again.