What do Soldiers Want in Packages?

By paul • Feb 13th, 2009 • Category: Civilian Support, Featured

Paul with snacks

This is a trickier question then it sounds. A lot depends on what the soldier’s job is and where he/she is working. Most major military forward operating bases have a PX (Post Exchange), where a soldier could buy items like toiletries, snacks and military gear. Most also have internet access and a soldier has the ability to shop online. The only problem with shopping online is some companies will not ship to an APO (Army Post Office) address. Then the item would have to be shipped home and a loved one would have to send it overseas.

Mail is the biggest morale boost and there is nothing better then getting packages from home. I would suggest sending the special little things that the PX doesn’t stock. Favorite magazines or movies are always good. The PX stocks Sports Illustrated and the New York Times best sellers, but if your loved one wants Runners’ World or Snowboarding Monthly they will need it sent from home. Most soldiers have their own living space and they like to hang things that remind them of home. I always have an Oregon State banner hanging from my wall to show my Beaver Pride wherever I am. Space is tight, so think of things a college student would want in a dorm room or things you would use to organize in your car. Little mirrors, plastic organizers, Katie even sent me a tiny thermometer meant to stick on your car dashboard. I mounted on the wall of my living area. (Hmmm…. is it 120 degrees in Afghanistan today or 122?) A monthly fresh fluffy towel is always a good choice, along with soft white socks and fresh sheets/pillow cases. The military laundry service has a way of drying out items of this nature and making them stiff and rigid. Military coffee is not good and my favorite care package item was always fresh beans from a local store. Any soldier will tell you, coffee is not a luxury item overseas - it’s a necessity!

But what if your soldier isn’t living on a base? For most of my time in Afghanistan I lived on remote outposts or in the field. We had no PX, so any “convenience store” item was welcome. Soldiers that eat MREs (Meals Ready To Eat) everyday instead of having access to a chow hall savor beef jerky, candy and potato chips sent from home.
I always liked getting protein bars, flavor packets to put in water and gum. Soldiers in the field use all the energy they have and quick pick-me-ups are needed. Liquid soap is great, but bar soap attracts sand and dirt in the outdoor showers. Baby wipes are also good for cleaning up after trips to the trench dug bathrooms. Electric outlets are different in other countries and electric razors and can become an issue so a pack of quality straight razors is a welcome surprise. If you can, when sending any item spring for good quality. It is rough living out there and the cheap stuff just falls apart or never works in the first place. Spend the extra dollar and give your soldier something he/she will use and not just throw in the community pile.

No matter where your soldier works, pictures from home are nice to keep tucked away in a special place to look at during the rough times. During the age of email it seems we are getting away from writing letters. I am guilty of this, too, but a hand-written letter from the heart with a picture inside is by far the best thing anyone can send no matter where a soldier is. Katie also sent me pre-addressed envelopes with friends and family’s addresses on them so I could stay in touch with people close to me. There is no need for stamps because a regular sized letter is free to send home from any combat theater.

paul is wondering about the next step. How do I translate the sense of purpose and direction I felt in the combat zone into meaning in my 'regular' life?
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One Response »

  1. One quick logistical note - the most economical way I found to send Paul packages was to use the flat rate boxes at the post office. They offer a discount for shipping to APO (Army Post Office) addresses and you can cram a lot of stuff in there - no weight limit!
    I ended up sending Paul a lot of canned beans since he was in the field a lot, and I could ship about 12 cans, plus a letter, some pictures and a few other small momentos for about 8 bucks.

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