When a loved one is deployed, it can be hard on everyone. A great way for families to stay connected is by sending a deployment care package. But what should you include in it? In this month’s Project Write 2 Them blog, we share some great tips on creating and sending care packages to deployed service members.
1. Connect with the U.S. Post Office.
Before you start gathering items for your deployment care package, visit the United States Postal Service (USPS) website to get up-to-date information on military guidelines and country regulations. You can also order a free “Military Care Kit” with the necessary supplies for sending packages overseas, including boxes and customs forms.
2. Include everyday necessities.
Although your service member may have have the ability to get toiletries and other necessary items while stationed away, they may not be their choice brands. A care package with your service member’s favorite brand of shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant, and lip balm would be a real treat. Here are some other basic necessities you could send along:
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand cream
- Cough drops
- Extra toothbrushes
Any items that have the potential to leak should be enclosed in a resealable plastic bag.
3. Send some non-perishable food.
If you’re sending food, make sure it non-perishable, portable, and in an airtight container. Homemade cookies pack well in empty Pringle cans. Some good options include:
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Peanut butter in small or medium size jars
- Tuna pouches
- Energy bars
- Trail mixes
- Canned soups and meals with pull-tab tops
- Small, hard containers of chips, pretzels, or nuts
- Cold or hot drink mixes
- Meal enhancers (including seasoned salt, packets of hot sauce, mustard, relish, ketchup, etc.)
Avoid sending chocolate, gum, and other types of candy that could melt or become gooey in warm climates. In a desert environment like the Middle East , the temperature inside a mail storage facility could exceed 120 degrees.
4. Add a little entertainment.
Books, sports magazines, and crossword puzzles make a great addition to any deployment care package. Your service member will enjoy these when they have some down time.
5. Share some photos.
Sharing photos of loved ones and friends is a great way to bring a sense of home to your service member. Either print and mail the pictures or use Project Write2Them to print and send your photos. If your service member has access to a computer, load them onto a USB flash drive.
6. Don’t forget to include a personal note.
“Anything you send is going to be appreciated, but a note goes a long way,” says U.S. Army Captain Roger Foley, Jr. “A collection of notes is even better because it gives your service member something to sit back and read on their down time without a need for a computer or electricity,” he adds. If you have really young family members at home, have them include some drawings in the care package.
7. Enclose a card listing the contents of your deployment care package.
This ensures that if your care package breaks open and the contents scatter during shipping, mail handlers will know what to repack. Include your return address and your service member’s full name and address as well.
8. Follow important shipping and delivery guidelines.
Be sure to write out your service member’s complete address on the package:
- Service member’s full name (with or without rank or rating)
- Unit and APO/FPO (Air/Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office) address
- Battalion, ship, squadron, platoon, etc., with the nine-digit ZIP code, if one is assigned
Priority mail packages typically take about 10 to 14 days to reach their country of destination. But depending on where your service member is stationed and the time of year, it could take more time.
To make sure your deployment care package gets to your service member on time, be sure to check holiday cut-off dates and shipping deadlines issued each year by the USPS. You may need to complete a Customs Form listing the items in your package. General descriptions such as “toiletries, food, and books” usually cover the items. This form is available at the post office and you may want to have it completed before you arrive there, so get a couple to have on hand at home.
If you have questions, visit the USPS website.
Deployment Care Packages Instill a Sense of Home
Deployment Care packages are a great way to boost morale and instill a sense of home in your service member. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your care package. Like the best things in life, it’s the thought that counts most. What kinds of things do you include in your deployment care packages? Share them with us in the reply section below.
Project Write 2 Them Connects U.S. Service Members and Families
Project Write2Them is a nonprofit corporation that serves to improve the morale of new U.S. military members and their families during basic training periods. Our mission is to ensure that every recruit’s name gets called at mail call. We do this by turning emails into letters from home™. To learn more about our services, visit our website.