Dos and don'ts of sending troops care packages
Hello Military Community,
This week as a continuation of my previous column I would like to go over some do’s and don’ts of military care packages. This is more for the “newbies” and not for the older military families. I have made a couple of these mistakes in my early years of living through deployments.
Sending a care package to your loved one deployed overseas can seem really easy – just mail everything he misses from home with an “I love you” card, right? It is not that simple. Sending mail to ships or units overseas is tricky for many reasons (slow processing, mail limitations, packages being opened before they arrive or by the wrong person afterward, etc.) But one of the most confounding is this: Unless you’ve been deployed yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what a service member might want and is allowed.
After two deployments within our family and assisting many other families, here are a few tricks of the trade, so to speak.
Try Not to Embarrass: You might think you are sending him or her something really funny or cute but sometimes your spouse won’t be laughing when he or she has to carry the item back to their room past other service members and friends. Also, you never know where they will be opening their package, or whom they will be with. If you think they will be humiliated for anyone to know you sent them something sexy don’t send them or give them a heads up about the contents of the box. Similarly, if you’re sending something that might embarrass YOU (hint: pictures), make sure you don’t surprise your spouse who might unknowingly show your photos to a group of friends peering over his or her shoulder.
Keep it Small: Your service member does not have much personal space in his or her overseas accommodations (usually). Chances are good he has no place to store the coffee latte machine you want to send him or that popcorn machine for nights in his room to enjoy. Remember, when he leaves he will need to take everything with them or leave for the next unit and chances are that it will be left. Things that can be stored easily and that can be consumed (food, toiletry items) rate high on most service members lists. I am not saying you can’t send the other big items; just discuss with the service member beforehand.
Keep it Personal: Remember your military spouse/loved one has not been home for a really long time—what might seem silly or boring to you will be like a little piece of home for your spouse. Send things to remind them of the things they love and miss (children, family, favorite food, taped reruns, music, books etc…)
Make it Fun: Deployed Service members are working almost non-stop and with little new scenery or change of pace. They don’t have the option to go to a store or movie for a while to “get out” and see something new. So bring the three big “F’s” to them – familiar, fun and family – along with a bit of new. My husband always liked getting music, magazines and movies to watch on his laptop during his down time. A good point that was made to me during his last deployment was how reading American (local) newspapers was appreciated. Could they read this online? Yes, but that can be hard if you don’t have a laptop or a good internet connection. Remember, these service members are living without many of the comforts and conveniences of home.
Make it Frequent: Mail Call is the highlight of the day for any deployed service member. It is something that was made very clear to me when my husband was deployed. I made the mistake of thinking because I emailed him every week and sometimes a couple times a week that I was “rocken” as a wife (I did not send letters). But my husband pointed out to me; it was appreciated but not personal. It seems that in today’s society we can get so hooked on electronics that we fail to realize how much a handwritten note means to someone. After this was reiterated to me and touched my heart, I continued my weekly email of what our family was planning for that week and followed up with more letters and cards going into more detail of our activities, thoughts and hopes. It is the simple things that make all the difference and show you care.
Blessings from my family to yours.
If you have any questions or concerns or would like to share a story or situation, contact me at Kim@MilitaryResourceBooks.com and visit my website for updated information and other resources not listed in my book.