contributed by Liz Zaczek, senior staff writer
Care packages are one of the easiest and most appreciated ways to show a loved one in the military that they are remembered by family and friends back home. Whether they are just beginning their career and completing their initial training or are about to be deployed for the umpteenth time there are appropriate ways to send care packages from home throughout their time in the military.
The military provides everything from meals and housing to toothbrushes and socks to its newest recruits. Duplicates and extras are stored and only retrieved and returned to service members upon graduation. Unauthorized packages can even result in reprimand and punishment by their drill sergeant on their entire unit. So it is best to wait to send care packages until they are finished with this stage of their military career.
While care packages aren’t a great idea at this stage, letters from home are completely acceptable and encouraged. It is best to use plain paper and envelopes and resist the urge to decorate these items lest they draw unwanted attention to their recipient. It is acceptable to include photos from home with the letter but limit sending texts, photos and the like digitally. Often recruits have very limited access to email and cell phones during this time.
Service members who have completed their initial training and those deployed away from home have far more freedom to receive care packages from home. Consider sending the music, toiletries, foods and treats the service member likes best. Those items along with notes, photos and small items are great ways to remind loved ones that they are remembered and missed.
Some great items to include in care packages include:
Items NOT to include:
After carefully putting together an amazing care package it would be a huge disappointment for both the sender and the recipient to have it arrive in less than perfect condition. Here’s some pointers for keeping care packages in one piece as they make their way to their destination.
Many choose to decorate their care packages with wrapping paper, stickers, cartoons and printouts of photos. There is no wrong or right way to decorate a care package. Keep in mind, decorate the INSIDE of the box or wrap the items inside individually. The outside of the box should be “standard issue” and easy for USPS and others to read the name and address of the recipient.
As the holiday season approaches, consider “adopting” a service member and sending a care package to them. This is also an opportunity to thank a service member as a project for scouts and other youth service organizations. Websites like Any Soldier provide the name and mailing address of service members who sign up with them and would love to receive letters or care packages from anyone.