The holidays are just around the corner, and if you have a service member deployed this season, care packages will really help them feel connected to home this season. There’s no question that they’ll be missing you and your family traditions while they are away serving our country, so a care package is a great way to make your deployed service member feel included in the festivities.
It’s difficult for members of our armed forces to be away from family during the holidays. Care packages sent with love from home help ease the homesickness and give them a small tangible connection to family, friends, and the traditions they aren’t able to take part in this year.
Holiday in a Box Care Package Ideas
Send your deployed service member a small box of holiday cheer to give them a little piece of home, even though they can’t be home. Include items that have special meaning and will help boost their spirits while they’re away from family. Here are just a few ideas to give your service member a holiday in a box:
- Miniature Christmas tree or menorah
- String of decorative lights for them to put up in the common area (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
Need gift ideas for what to send your deployed service member? Entertainment and time passing activities are all great ideas for holiday gifts. Although they will go through intensely busy periods of time, they will also have boring stretches of inactivity. They do get time to unwind after long duty hours as well.
- 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
- Universal outlet adapter – If your service member gets the opportunity to stay out in town in a foreign city, they will need a universal outlet adapter to accommodate any of their electronics, like their cell phone charger, electric shavers, or computer chords.
Homemade Goods for Your Care Package
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 and most likely will melt when they sit on hot tarmacs and shipping areas. Dense, dry goods like the following are all great choices:
- Peanut brittle
Daily Staples and Self-Care Items
While the supply store at their command may 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
- Toothpaste/toothbrush – these things are in the base supply stores, but not always the kinds or flavors that people prefer
- 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.
- Hard candy
- Specialty snack foods
- Condiments – specialty hot sauce etc.
- Drink powders – dry powdered Gatorade or water flavor packets
- Brand name protein powders – Shakeology weight loss mixes etc.
What Not to Send in Your Care Package
It can be tempting to get carried away and give our service members every convenience in their care packages. But due to command rules, shipping hazards, and heat considerations, there are certain items that you should never send in a care package. These are just a few of those items you need to skip:
- No alcohol
- No explicit or inappropriate material
- Nothing that spoils
- No chocolate
- Nothing breakable (no snow globes, etc.) if you do 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.
If you’re lucky enough to have your service member home for the holidays this year, think about adopting a soldier to send a care package to through the Soldier’s Angels program. 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 out on deployment.
Whether your holiday care package is for your loved one or a complete stranger through the Soldier’s Angels program, you’ll help ease the homesickness caused by deployment and service in a combat zone. Sometimes just holding a box of gifts hand-picked for them from someone in the States is enough to see them through.
If you do plan to craft a holiday care package this year, you will need to have it shipped out as soon as possible so that it has time to reach them before they ring in the New Year.
Do you plan on sending a care package to a service member for the holidays this year? What items do you like to include?
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Mike Ash says
We just finished our 9th Annual Shop, Ship and Share event here in Minnesota. The American Legion has partnered with the USPS and for the last 9 years we have collected needed items from local schools (including getting the students to write letters and colored drawings, which are REALLY appreciated), raise money for postage and for 2 days, one of the local malls allows us to set up shop in the middle of it and volunteers package boxes, fill out customs forms, address and seal the boxes and then hand them over to Postal Service employees who volunteer their time and have a mini-post office set up. This year we sent over 1100 packages to Minnesota troops deployed mainly overseas (quite an increase from our fist year of 73 packages). We use the large $16.95/each boxes the post office supplies and usually send multiple packages to units to make sure everyone gets something.
Other states could do the same, if interested they can drop me an email.