Military men and women serving in Afghanistan are delighted to receive gifts and packages not just during the holiday season, but year-round. Even if you don't know any soldiers personally, sending them care packages will always brighten their lives and make them feel a little closer to home.
What to Send
Morale is the greatest gift a soldier can receive, so send letters of support. Often, soldiers don't have Internet access and can't send emails. Let them stay in touch with their loved ones and send blank writing cards and envelopes, greeting cards, and postage. You can also send AT&T phone cards so they can phone home.
Food is good, so long as it keeps in transit. Snacks of sturdy baked goods, beef jerky, nuts and hard candy are something a soldier can share with his or her buddies. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa and hot cider mix and flavor packets for bottled water are always enjoyable. In areas where a microwave oven is available, non-perishable microwavable food is welcome.
Working in the military is always a hurry-up-and-wait situation, so to fill the long, boring hours it's good to have magazines and books. Other good time-fillers are puzzle books such as sudoku, crossword, etc., card games and board games.
A soldier's feet take a lot of wear, so white athletic socks are always appreciated. Everyone loves the feel of a new pair of socks. Foot care items such as foot powder, insoles and foot deodorizer help keep a soldier's feet healthy as well as comfortable.
Rubber balloons (for water balloon fights) are popular.
Many of the soldiers also like to receive things they can give to the local children. Pencils, colored pencils, individually wrapped hard candies and small stuffed toys are popular items.
What Not to Send
It is not just inappropriate, it is actually forbidden to send pornography, weapons, pork products, alcohol, or any form of propaganda. It's a crime in Afghanistan to proselytize any religion other than Islam so do not send Bibles or any other religious material in bulk. However, a single bible for personal use is allowed. Don't send bulky non-consumable items, either. The soldier will have to leave them behind once he returns home.
How to Package
Pack your gifts in plastic containers rather than glass, which can burst during transit. Check that any containers with liquid or powder are airtight, as pressure changes can cause the goods to leak. Pack everything tightly so nothing rattles, and pad well. Don't send food items with toiletries in the same package. Even if the packages don't leak, the odors can mix in the heat and make the food taste like the toiletries.