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Sending Care Packages to Sailors and Marines

By: LIFELines

A "care package" from home: is there any better mail a forward deployed Sailor or Marine can receive? In this age of instant communications, with daily emails flowing from the fleet and battlefields stretched across the globe, with cell phone technologies allowing deployed GI’s to talk daily with spouses and family, receiving old-fashioned snail mail, in the form of a box, wrapped in brown paper, filled with items hand-selected for Sailor Jane or Marine Bill is still a rush.

How do I know? I’ve spent the last month talking with Sailors & Marines who have recently returned from deployments and with family members who bought and sent numerous “care packages.” Plus, unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember going to war without email (Vietnam, 67-68) and I still remember the excitement of receiving a box with my name on it, filled with Mom’s melted and broken cookies. NOTHING ever tasted so fine!

So, what follows is an updated primer on sending “care packages” to your loved ones as the holiday season approaches.

Be Practical …

If one googles “military care packages” one finds some 500+ sites dedicated to defining and refining the art of sending care packages to the troops. Civic groups do it, veterans groups do it, lots of kind folks with good intentions do it. I would recommend looking for general advise at the official web site of America Supports our Troops. More so, the simple advice returning Sailors have shared with me is: ask. Ask what your loved one most needs. Soft candy melts in 100+ degree heat, so nix the urge to send the same.

Send articles that your guy wants. Sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how often this rule is ignored.

But don’t be too Practical …

Sending dumb, funny, funky things is both fun for the sender and warmly appreciated by the troops. One Marine told me his girl friend sent him a lobster clambake, replete with plastic lobster, corn, clams and seaweed, so that he could feel apart of his family’s annual 4th of July celebration. He even got a lobster bib, just in case the plastic melted and ran down his cammies!

A touch of home comes in a lot of shapes and sizes, so creativity counts.

Be Personal …

I once witnessed a tough, hard charging LPO wilt when he opened his most recent care package and found a 10 dollar gift card for IHOP from his 7 year old daughter. It seems that he had been taking her to IHOP every Sunday, after church services, for pancakes and sausage, since she was 3 years old. It was their weekly “date” their time to be alone and share each other’s company. She had saved her allowance and bought the gift card so that she could take him to IHOP when he returned form deployment.

Besides the obvious (wipes, batteries, etc.) look for things that really matter, that say, “I can’t wait to be with you once again.”

Finally, pay attention to shipping rules and dates. Consult the United States Postal Service home page to ensure that your package gets to its destination in a timely fashion.

Care packages may never replace instant communications with a loved one, but “Mail Call” still brings a charge to those serving in harms way.