No one, even our brave military men and women, probably enjoyed spending the holidays away from friends and loved ones. While nothing can compete with spending quality time with children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, receiving a care package from the folks back home warms the hearts of our brave military members.

How to Send Our Troops the Care Packages They Really Need

Being deployed overseas means going without many of the basic comforts of home. Anything from specialty snacks to quality toiletry supplies help our troops, despite their distance from those they love most. When designing your care package for your loved one or even an anonymous soldier overseas, keep in mind their daily reality and stock them up on gifts they’ll truly appreciate.

Learn What You Can — and Can’t — Send

Of course, you want to send soldiers the things they want the very most. And you want to make sure your package reaches the recipient! Make sure to always write your name, address and phone number prominently and clearly on the outside of the box. If you use an online care package creation service, be sure to provide the company with your telephone and email address so they can contact you if any loss or damage occurs.

Soldiers deployed overseas love personal touches like love letters from their partners and children. Have a craft day where you let your kids create special greetings for the parent on deployment. Include humorous anecdotes and positive news to lift your military loved ones’ spirit.

The list of what you may send stretches on nearly forever, but there are a few items you should never send, per carrier and military protocol. For example, you cannot send alcohol, narcotics or any illicit substances. Adult magazines likewise get the ixnay!

Additionally, avoid sending materials in aerosol cans, as these may explode during transit causing injury or worse. Likewise, avoid sending firecrackers or lithium batteries. And, as much as you want your loved ones to eat their greens, both common sense and the law in some areas ban the shipment of fresh fruits and veggies.

Choosing Cosmetics and Toiletries

As you work to create a care package, consider sending some of the most sought-after cosmetic and toiletry products among those deployed overseas. As weight limits vary, select small travel-sized containers of toiletries such as cotton swabs, petroleum jelly, lip balm and baby wipes. Use your everyday grooming routine as a guide on what to send. Most of us get up, brush our teeth and wash, so send soaps, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, disposable razors and non-aerated shaving gel.

For female military members, include feminine hygiene products, which prove impossible to find in many areas. As a general rule, avoid sending scented products. Some may suffer from allergies, and in unstable combat zones, the scent of perfume or lotion can give away a military member’s location.

Basic medical supplies such as bandages, ibuprofen or aspirin, hand sanitizer and vitamin/mineral supplements make useful additions to any care package. A soft pack of tissues and a few bags of relaxing tea help soothe the sniffles of soldiers who catch colds.

Simply Scrumptious Snacks

Though they’ve improved over time, field rations called MREs, or meals ready to eat, fill the stomach, yet starve the soul. Every soldier misses their favorite edible goodies from home, and sending snacks overseas helps ease the pain of being away from loved ones.

Due to shipping times, only send non-perishable items in your goodie box for your military member. Snacks such as beef jerky, Slim Jims, peanut butter, tuna and trail mixes provide an extra-filling protein punch. Crave-worthy goodies like Pringles, Spaghetti-Os, chicken soup and other canned goods travel well without refrigeration. You can add some sweet treats as well, but as chocolate melts in transit, opt for candy that doesn’t melt, such as hard candies and licorice sticks.

A Personal Touch Means Everything

While everyone appreciates a gift in the mail, even if it’s only a bag of pretzels, truly showing your deployed loved one you care means stocking your care package with products uniquely personal to them. For example, think of the way you enjoy wearing your loved one’s shirt to feel close to them and smell their cologne or deodorant. Dab just a tiny bit on a handkerchief so your loved one overseas feels closer to you every time they smell it.

Decorate the care package box inside and out with pictures kids have drawn and inspirational messages from other family members. Keep your loved one’s hobbies in mind as well. Some troops enjoy collecting baseball cards, while others prefer reading or doing crossword puzzles.

Remember making your friends mixtapes back in high school? Buy a USB device and download your loved one’s favorite songs onto it for an auditory reminder of home.

Organizations That Can Help

If you’re short on time or at a loss for ideas of what to send, check out the resources the USO has to offer. You can visit a nearby USO facility to stock your care package with pre-approved materials or give them a call and have them create the box for you.

Being deployed overseas can mean living with constant feelings of homesickness. Whether you have a special soldier you support or want to send a random soldier a gift to thank them for their service, receiving care packages makes our troops feel valued. Make a military member’s day by sending them a care package today!

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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