Thousands of U.S. troops are deployed in Iraq. The desert environment can be difficult, and the troops may be apart from loved ones for lengthy periods of time. Let them know you care by remembering them with a gift at Christmas. Sending Christmas gifts to service men and women in Iraq can mean a lot to them, so take a minute to check out some information on what is acceptable to send, how to ship it and when to mail packages.
Buying gifts for the troops can be confusing if you do not know what to get. Plan ahead and ask your service member for a wish list. Create a care package filled with popular items such as CDs, DVDs, Girl Scout Cookies, flash drives, Beanie Babies, headsets, moist towelettes, toiletries with unbroken seals and prepaid phone cards. Send soft goods such as baseball caps, socks, knit hats, neck-warmers, T-shirts and gloves. Make sure the colors are tan, brown, taupe, desert camouflage, oatmeal or neutral tones. Check toiletries and food items for unopened seals. If you want to send a gift but do not know a service member, donate items to organizations that support the troops. Your donation may lift morale and brighten a soldier's day. Write a handwritten letter thanking them for their service and share news of home.
What Not to Send
Familiarize yourself with military mailing restrictions before sending your gifts. Certain conditions and restrictions apply to mail sent to U.S. troops serving in Iraq. According to the United States Postal Service, the following are prohibited in the region of Operation Iraqi Freedom: obscene materials of any kind, any matter that depicts nude or semi-nude persons, all forms of pornography, sexual items and nonauthorized political materials. Mass quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith are unacceptable, though religious items for personal use are acceptable. Pork or pork by-products are strictly prohibited.
Prepare your package for shipping so that it can withstand intense Iraq desert temperatures that can exceed 100 degrees F. Select a box that is well-constructed and sturdy. If you are recycling a box, cover all previous labels and markings with heavy black marker or plain labels. Protect your package by adding cushion and insulation such as bubble wrap or Styrofoam.The postal service recommends removing batteries from battery-operated items and wrapping them separately. Use clear or brown packaging tape to seal the box. Before sealing the box shut, enclose a card or note listing the contents of the package. Use tape that is at least 2 inches wide to seal the opening shut and reinforce all seams on the box.
Mail your gifts about six weeks before Christmas. As the holiday season approaches, check with the post office regarding deadline dates to ensure timely delivery. Select a delivery service that ships to APO or FPO military addresses. Verify that the address label lists the service member's full name, unit name, APO/FPO address and nine-digit ZIP code. All packages require a full return address. It is important that the package go to a specific service member. Anonymous packages are no longer accepted because of national security concerns.