Thousands of military men and women are not able to be home for the holidays each year. Whether they are stationed in another state or overseas, it can be a very lonely time for a soldier. Care packages (which include useful or fun items) are always welcomed by our troops, particularly at the holidays, and let them know that they are in our thoughts.
Before You Begin
Care packages can be sent to specific individuals that you know, or you can find one of the many programs that will allow you to select a soldier from a list to receive a care package. You can also address the care package to "Any Soldier" or "Any Female Soldier" and the packages will be distributed at the specified location based on need.
Military locations and bases have individual restrictions on what can or cannot be sent. Check with the military base before sending items if you have any questions. For example, the United States Postal Service states that the following cannot be sent to the military in Afghanistan or Iraq: obscene articles; items depicting nudity, semi-nudity, pornography or sexual items; unauthorized political materials; large quantities of religious materials that are not in line with the Muslim faith; pork or pork by-products. Religious materials for individual use may be sent.
Unless you are sending a care package to someone you know, home-cooked foods are not allowed. All food products to unknown soldiers must be in the packaging from the factory.
Send practical gifts, as there are a lot of items that soldiers need. These include water-resistant socks, resealable plastic bags, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, batteries, sewing kits, inflatable pillows, baby wipes, underwear, canned air, razors, foot powder and vitamins. Beanie babies are a good gift for the soldiers as well. They are easy to carry when off base, and are given as gifts to the local children to build goodwill.
One of the most requested pleasure items from United States soldiers are cigars, so be sure to include a few in your care package. Soldiers on deployment have a lot of spare time on their hands. Things you can consider including are disposable cameras, long-distance phone cards, chewing gum, playing cards, dice, music CD's, DVD's, dominoes, board games, paperback books, notepads, pens, newspapers and magazines.
Food items are also good to put in care packages. Often-requested snack foods include sunflower seeds, beef jerky, nuts, coffee, jelly beans, cookies in individual packages, potato chips packed in tubes, individually wrapped licorice, granola bars and microwave popcorn. They'll need something to wash it all down, so be sure to include coffee, hot cocoa mix or juice. For the main course, send canned goods, pasta, tomato sauce, spices, salt and pepper, instant oatmeal, smoked oysters and sardines, Ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, olives, pickles and soup mixes. Also include some microwaveable plates and bowls.
Since the soldiers are missing the holidays, send the holidays to them. They will be delighted to find Christmas candy, Christmas lights, menorahs, mini-Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Consider including a box or two of Christmas cards and an address book filled with addresses for friends and relatives. If the box is going to a soldier you know, be sure to include lots of pictures of the family. To make the holiday care package even more festive, wrap each item in the box individually in Christmas wrapping paper.
The military recommends sending smaller boxes of ten pounds or less, and no more than three at one time to any individual base. First-class and priority mail holiday care packages heading overseas should be sent no later than the first week of December. Check with the United States Postal Service for cutoff dates for other types of shipping. The United States Postal Service provides free priority mail packaging products and can be picked up at any post office location.