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Military Care Packages: Sending Smiles Overseas

The United States Armed Forces began protecting the United States before it ever became the United States. The first military units were formed in 1775, one year prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the beginning, the U.S. Military comprised of the Continental Army, the Continental Navy, and the Continental Marines. These military units were necessary to protect the New World from the mounting pressure brought forth by the British Empire, which eventually turned into the Revolutionary War. Today, over 1 million men and women serve in the U.S. Armed Forces either in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard. These people protect the very freedoms Americans have become accustomed to, and they deserve the never-ending thanks and support of the American people.

One way to thank the men and women serving in the military is to send them care packages. According to statistics released by the U.S. Government, as of September 2011, more than 205,000 military
personnel have left their homes, families, and friends to serve overseas in over 150 countries. U.S. military personnel are also frequently relocated away from their homes even within the United States. Some are moved up to Alaska, or serve in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Regardless of where a person is stationed, being away from familiar surroundings is difficult.

This is where a care package comes into play. Whether sending the package to a family member, friend, or total stranger, showing the true appreciation these people deserve for the sacrifices they are making will not only make their day, but the sender’s as well. Both the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces are away from their families for extended periods of time. Many male soldiers have sons or daughters born while they are away; many female soldiers must leave their little ones behind for someone else to temporarily raise while they serve their country. When placed in this perspective, it is hard to imagine that something as simple as a care package makes a difference, but it does. Just saying “Thank you,” and showing enough love to take the time to prepare and send a token of appreciation not only helps keep our soldiers spirits up, but also reminds them of why they are serving in the first place: To protect this great country and the citizens that live within it.

So, what to send? Depending on where they are stationed, military personnel overseas cannot access many of the things that we take advantage of daily; this includes items that people might not even think about as a necessity, such as small bottles of hand sanitizer. Of course it is great to send the troops goodies, but they also need non-food items. Some of the most requested staples from the U.S. are baby wipes, hand sanitizer, batteries, DVDs, and video games. U.S. troops are also in need of provisions like laundry detergent, fabric softener, linens, small flashlights, and international phone cards so they can call home.

Of course, the troops receive love when they receive goodies, as well, and many soldiers request beef jerky, coffee, powder drink mixes like Gatorade, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and an old American favorite: tuna or chicken salad — in foil pouches, please. Cookies and candy are always appreciated, but certain types of candy, such as chocolate, cannot be sent during summer months if the care package is going to an extremely hot location like the Middle East. It is also important to remember that the U.S. canine military staff needs appreciation, too. Animal lovers wishing to include something for the canine soldiers can include dog treats, dog toys, dog shampoo, and flea treatments.
Those wanting to really show appreciation for the U.S. Armed Forces can organize a community care package drive to ensure numbers of packages get sent to the troops. Contacting the local recruiting office is a good start. They can help organizers get a list of local military personnel who are stationed overseas and what is acceptable to ship to the troops. The fun begins after that. With the information in hand, organizers can advertise a military care package drive in the local newspaper, on the community bulletin board, and spread the word through community centers and places of religion.

Organizers can also spend a couple of hours outside the local grocery stores handing out lists of items the soldiers need as people enter the store to do their shopping. If every shopper buys one thing on the list, organizers will have hundreds of items to ship very quickly. Chances are local grocery stores will also be willing to donate boxes to ship the care packages in. Once the items are brought to one location, the care package preparation party begins. Volunteers will find great joy in assembling and preparing the care packages to be shipped to the troops, and it is doubtful that postage will be a problem either, as some people may wish to donate the postage for the care packages to be sent instead of actually purchasing an item to send.

No matter how the packages get there, it is important that they get there. Whether a huge care package party, or just a few friends and neighbors wanting to send a couple of boxes, military personnel stationed overseas miss home, their family, their friends, and the lifestyle that they are accustomed to. Sending a military care package with some reminders of the U.S. gives the soldiers a little piece of the country they are fighting to protect. It also provides them with the knowledge that the people they are protecting are thinking of them, and care enough to send something as simple as a box of cookies. When you are stationed halfway across the world away from your family, a box of cookies really isn’t simple at all.

U.S. Department of Defense: Care Packages

Our Military: Care Packages Sending a Care Package to a Military Service Member

Give 2 The Troops Most Requested Item List

Oregon State Government: Care Package Information

Kansas Adjutant General’s Department: Troop Care Packages

United We Serve: Operation Homefront and Volunteers to Pack Care Packages for New York Service Members

Clemson Cooperative Extension: Mailing Food Gifts to Military

Adopt a Platoon: Suggested Snack Food and Miscellaneous Items

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