It’s difficult for members of our armed forces to be away from family and important traditions during the holidays. If you have a family service member deployed far from home, one of the best things you can do during the holidays is to send a care package that will help boost their spirits and give them a little piece of home.
Holiday Themed Items
To help your service member find some decorative seasonal spirit, consider sending:
- Miniature Christmas tree or Menorah
- String of decorative lights for them to put up in common areas (include a pack of twist ties)
- Holiday cards from family and friends
- Stocking filled with goodies
- Candy canes
- Elf on a shelf
- Cards that record voices
- A wrapped gift with instructions that they need to wait until Christmas morning to open it
If you need gift ideas on what to send, consider entertainment and activities that help pass the time. Although service members go through intensely busy periods, they will also have boring stretches of inactivity and will appreciate gifts that help them unwind after long duty hours. Great ideas to fill these times include:
- iTunes gift card
- Book or book series
- Audio recorder filled with messages from loved ones and friends back home. They can then record their own message and ship a message back home.
- Video games
- Playing cards
- A universal outlet adapter would be much appreciated if your service member is deployed in a foreign city. They’ll need at least one and maybe more to accommodate electronics such as cell phones, electric shavers, computer chords, and more.
No holiday care package is complete without a tin or two of homemade baked goods.
When sending homemade treats to your service member, be sure to send the item in a fully sealed container that has been wrapped several times with plastic wrap to prevent the goods from spilling out or breaking.
Remember that it could take several weeks or more for your care package to arrive, so don’t send homemade items that will spoil. Also, don’t send chocolate goods either, since they could melt when sitting on hot tarmacs and shipping areas.
Daily Staples and Self-Care Items
Supply stores carry basic items and toiletries, there aren’t many varieties of products from which to choose. Add some of your deployed service member’s favorite pantry and toiletry items into their holiday care package box to help them re-stock their supply of daily use items they can’t get through their command.
Here are some items that service members generally can’t pick up on base:
- Name brand deodorant and body wash
- Certain brands of toothpaste and toothbrushes
- Socks – Service members are on their feet a lot. Send them cushy socks that fit well with their work boots.
- Air fresheners – Things don’t always smell quite so fresh in close quarters with other hard working and sweating service members. Air fresheners go a long way to improving their living space.
- Dense, dry goods like biscotti, gingerbread, shortbread, hard candy, and peanut brittle.
- Specialty snack foods
- Condiments – specialty hot sauce or regional flavorings are especially welcome.
- Beef jerky
- Dry powdered drink mixes or water flavor packets
- Brand name protein powders
Don’t Send These Items
It can be tempting to get carried away and give service members every convenience in their care packages. But due to command rules, shipping hazards, and heat considerations, there are certain items you should never send, including:
- Explicit or inappropriate material such as pornography or sensitive religious materials
- Anything that spoils or could melt (chocolate, gum, etc.)
If you send small glass containers of cologne or perfume, for example, make sure to bubble wrap the item and secure it inside of other soft items like socks or a t-shirt.
Consider Contributions to Soldier’s Angels
If you want to support other deployed service members during the holidays and throughout the year, consider getting involved with Soldier’s Angels. This global network of volunteers — representing all 50 states, Washington DC, and 31 countries abroad — work to ensure that those who serve or have served are supported, uplifted, and remembered through a variety of support programs.
There are plenty of service members who have no one back home who would be thrilled to receive some kindness from strangers while they are deployed.
Remember Shipping Deadlines
If you are planning to send a care package this year, be sure to review shipping deadlines so that it has time to reach your loved one before the holidays.