First, I must make mention of both those service members and their families that are unable to be home during the holiday season. As a young Marine, I was blissfully naïve to the effect on those that loved me on being overseas. As I’ve matured in Marine years, I’ve realized the toll that being away has on the families involved. And as service members leave families behind, I see the difficulties that arise from this. Going to holiday parties by yourself gets really old, really fast.
Second, people ask me all the time what is the best thing to send a service member that is deployed overseas. This questions picks up intensity during the holidays as organizations are busily putting together care packages. I’ve put together some quick thoughts to help bridge the gap between those that want to do good for veterans and how to do right by them.
Some misperceptions or things NOT to send:
- Decks of cards. I’m not sure why, but there are 1000s of decks of cards in war zones. I think this is a product of too many World War II movies, but there is little down time and also, we now have iPods, iPads, etc….
- Things that can spoil. My grandparents, bless their hearts, sent me a high end box of cheese, meats and crackers. By the time (about a month) it reached me on the Iraqi/Syrian border, it was a disgusting mess of rotten food.
- Candy/sugar. Generally when in a warzone you want things that provide sustenance, not rot your teeth.
Things that make great care packages:
- Beef jerky, packaged chicken, canned cheese. No kidding, my favorite thing in Iraq was canned chicken, with some hot sauce, mixed with canned “easy cheese” on a cracker. It was heaven. Sustenance, quick, and different than the lovely MREs (meals ready-to-eat).
- Pictures of the group sending the package. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s not to say the notes of encouragement aren’t value-added (especially from school children) but the personal connection of the package is what makes the difference. These people are REAL, they care about YOU. It’s very powerful.
- Boot socks ($10/pair, smart wool). For those truly forward deployed, good socks are a life saver. We all know the feeling of putting on brand new socks for the first time. Well, multiply this by about 1000 when you are wearing boots every day.
Again, my job is to help bridge the gap between veterans and civilians. I hope you find this a helpful addition to your holiday shopping list.