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Handle with Care: How to Create An Epic Care Package to Send Your Deployed Service Member

If you’ve ever had a loved one deployed overseas, you know just how important care packages are. You know because your loved one likely told you how much it helped, as well as how the things you sent were utilized — as reminders of home they hung on their bunk posts or carried into the field, as some unheard of but remarkably resourceful way to fix a wonky table leg, or, simply, as something that boosted their morale and the morale of their fellow troops.

So “the why” is there, present and resounding: care packages provide both comfort and joy to our deployed service members. “The what” is trickier, however — what can you send that will turn your loved one’s dark day into something bright? How can you make your care package epic!?

Going at it alone can be more of a frustrating experience than an enjoyable one. But that’s why we’re here. That’s why this list is here. On the pages that follow, you’ll find suggestions on what to send to your loved one, as well as how to package it. Because, as you’ll find out, the thing they remember most just may be the presentation itself!


ESSENTIALS

-Food

The main thing to consider here is shelf life. Meaning: stick to food items that are either a) dry goods or b) non-perishable. Sadly, something like a bundle of bananas won’t make it unscathed (or fresh) to its destination. Depressing as that may be, trust us, your service member will love receiving the canned pears you send, or the bag of rice. Because, at least when they’re out in the field, they’re eating from a vacuum-sealed MRE; they’ll gladly welcome the change in flavor.

Another important thing to remember when selecting food to send is that, at times, your service member will have limited means to make the food. In other words, sending something that requires a conventional oven and several baking dishes may not be the best option.

Other foods to consider: breakfast cereals, honey, instant oatmeal, boxed and/or canned soup, boxed potatoes, cans of tuna, beef jerky, crackers, nuts, granola bars, raisins, various candies


-Spices

Here’s where you and your service member can get a little more creative — you with the spices you select to send, and your service member with what they select to put on the standard-issued food. For example, if your service member likes a little kick in their food, send them some cayenne pepper. They prefer something zestier? Send some garlic salt. Believe us when we say that they’ll cherish it. Why? Because spices aren’t always readily available to them. Also: spices take up very little room, both in the box you’ll send and in what they’re temporarily calling home.

Other spices to consider: salt, pepper, cumin, lemon pepper, basil, dill weed, cinnamon, paprika, parsley, sage, ginger, rosemary, thyme



-Hygiene

Remember when we said that care packages can turn a dark day into something bright? Hygiene is precisely where a shift like that can occur.

While deployed, your service member is physically active and, on occasion, not even a shower is readily available. Dealing with that, as well as with the elements (sun, wind, dust, dirt), can grind a person down. Hygiene products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash can do wonders in making your service member feel more, for lack of a better term, human. Foot powder or ointment will help take care of the irritation their boots keep giving them. A pack of aspirin will make it so they don’t have to go to Medical for a headache. The list can go on and on.

Other hygiene products to consider: deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, chapstick/lip balm, baby wipes, cough drops

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-Odds & Ends

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We promise: a roll of duct tape can go far. Like, really far. And so can something like headphones, for when your service member feels like being alone for a while with their music. For this section of the care package, think of the moments when your service member could be “in a pinch,” meaning: there’s something they need that wouldn’t be regularly provided by their branch.

Other odds & ends to consider: plastic baggies (for storage), pens, pencils, notepads, can opener, batteries, socks

CONTINUE TO “ENTERTAINMENT”

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G.D. resides in West Michigan. When he isn’t writing (or editing), you can find him outside, riding a bike, reading a book, or just plain running. Other interests include sports (of any kind), music (again, any kind) and cinema (a bit pickier here).