by Dustin Porter
Do you ever think about the hundreds of thousands of United States military personnel who are serving our country overseas? If you have family in the military or you have been in the military yourself, you probably already know how much our military enjoys receiving care packages while they are away. If you don’t know anyone in the military, you can still make a difference and reach out to one of our service men or women and show them how much you appreciate them by the simple act of sending them a care package.
There are a lot of things we take for granted in everyday life, like using a microwave, washing machine, coffee maker, etc. While some of our servicemen do have access to these luxuries, many do not. And they can’t run to the store to buy themselves a soda or a candy bar like we can. They learn to make do, and to many times do without. It really makes their day when items such as these show up in their mail. Not to mention words of encouragement. Many service men and women do not receive mail from home while they are away, and they can become very lonely and detached from their everyday lives. A short note from a stranger has tremendous power to make someone’s day.
Where to Send
There is a great non-profit web site called AnySoldier.com where for a small donation you can receive names and addresses for as many soldiers as you would like to send care packages to. The limit is two addresses per day. The people who have signed up to receive the packages are just the “point of contact” for a unit. Any mail or packages sent to them is distributed throughout their unit. You can choose to send your package anywhere in the world, and to any branch of the military.
What to Send
What to put in a care package depends on where you are sending the package and what time of the year it is. Before you go shopping, check the AnySoldier.com web site and see what kind of items soldiers are currently requesting. Many need personal hygiene items such as shaving cream, razors, soap, hand sanitizer, lotion, etc. Snacks are always a big hit. Beef jerky, nuts of any kinds, granola bars, and candy are always appreciated. They are also always looking for drink packets to add to water bottles, energy drinks, and instant coffee. For those who have access to microwaves, microwave popcorn and macaroni and cheese in a cup are good choices.
Soldiers also appreciate new and used magazines. Instead of throwing out magazines after you read them, pass them on. Car and fitness magazines are popular with the men, and don’t forget about the female soldiers. They always appreciate good women’s magazines.
Don’t forget playing cards, dice, puzzle books, anything to help pass the time. Some units are looking for items like video game systems, so check the web site for those kinds of specific requests.
When you put together a package, do not combine food items with non-food items. The scents that are included in many laundry and hygiene items will affect the flavor of any food also in the package.
How to Send
If you ship priority mail, you can mail the package from your own home. The best value is to use the large flat rate military boxes available from the USPS. If they don’t have these special boxes at your post office, get them at the USPS web site. They will be shipped for free to your home. Using these special boxes saves more than a dollar in shopping and the weight of the box doesn’t matter since it is flat rate.
Although you will be paying domestic prices to ship the box, you still need to fill out a customs form to ship the box. The USPS has recently streamlined this process and if you print the address label online it will combine your shipping label with the customs label, preventing you from having to fill out a special form. There is a special clear pouch for customs forms you can get at the post office or order for free online. Place this pouch on the front of the package and insert the combined shipping and customs form in the pouch. You can schedule a pick up for the package online and your postman will pick up the package at your front door. You don’t even have to be home if you leave it on your front porch.
Assembling care packages for the military is a great group project. Whether done by a family, school group, scout group, or church group, it is fun to do together and the rewards are priceless. If you get lucky you might even hear back from one of the people who received a package.