For memorial day, besides enjoying a beautiful day at the lake, we’re going to work on a care package for a soldier away from home. Our goal is to get it started on Memorial Day and have it out in time for the Independence Day. Below are our plans for getting it together in time. I’d love tips from anyone who has sent a package to a service member!
ON MEMORIAL DAY
1. Choose a soldier or group to mail the package to.
All mail needs to be addressed to individual service members, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s requirements.
If you do not have a particular soldier in mind, no worries. Visit anysoldier.com, a site that connects citizens with soldiers that need letters and care packages. Check the site to get a name and address of a specific soldier and to see what items the soldier has said he or she needs.
2. Make and decorate a card to go in the care package.
THE WEEK FOLLOWING MEMORIAL DAY
1. Order free shipping materials from the post office, specifically for sending care packages to troops (via here):
—Call the USPS Expedited Package Supply Center at 1-800-610-8734
—Choose option 1, “express mail, priority mail, or global express guaranteed products”
—Ask customer service for Care Kit 4 or a “military kit”
—Provide your name, address, and phone number
—Wait for 7-10 days
—When your kit arrives, it will contain 2 Priority Mail boxes, 6 Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes, 8 Priority Mail labels, 8 customs forms with envelopes, and 1 roll of Priority Mail tape. (Though you need to fill out a customs form, shipping to bases overseas is domestic rate. The Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes included in the kit can be shipped to any APO/FPO in the world, regardless of weight, for $8.10.)
2. Review the guidelines for what not to send.
Here’s a basic list of forbidden items: Anything pork, anything obscene, bulk religious material, fresh fruit, anything with alcohol, any weapon or anything glass, and anything home-cooked unless you know the soldier personally (via here).
And since it is summer in the desert for most of the troops, you may also think twice before sending anything wax or chocolate. Though if you have to send chocolate, and I think I will, put it in its own bag and remember dark chocolate holds up better to heat.
THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF JUNE
1. Leave a box open on the counter and start adding goodies! Remember the cardinal rule of care packages to anyone, send enough to share. Here are a few things troops have said they’ve appreciated:
—Notes from the kids (my kids love to send riddles and tongue twisters)
—Notes from anyone in the neighborhood
—Decorations to hang up
—Books, magazines from home, CDs
—Single serving drink mixes (soldiers say these work great with the water bottles they’re given)
—Flavored nuts, sunflower seeds, hard candy, beef jerky
—Mints and gum
—Salt and pepper
—Koozies to keep water bottles and cans cool
—Floss, deodorant, body powder, antibacterial spray, sanitizer, lip balm
—First-aid supplies, sewing kit
—Nail polish for the ladies (servicewomen get to wear polish, but no makeup)
—Icy/hot patches for soar muscles
—Travel-size games, dice, a new crisp pack of playing cards, crossword books
—Hackey sacks, Frisbees, stress balls, silly string
—Memento from a favorite sports team
—Prepaid phone cards
—Pocket handwarmers (even in the summer the mornings can be cold)
THE WEEKEND BEFORE SENDING IT
(JUNE 13-14 for us)
1. Bake goodies (only if you know the serviceman or woman personally).
—Choose a recipe with white sugar and vegetable shortening to avoid spoiling. Avoid butter and margarine, peanut butter, and brown sugar, all of which tend to spoil. And no allspice or nutmeg, these are considered aphrodisiacs.
—Package in stacks with parchment paper or wax paper between each cookie. Add a slice of white bread to keep the cookies fresh. Finally, pack it up well in a Glad container or a firm box inside a Ziploc bag, something airtight.
—Include a card saying what you were careful to include and not include in your recipe according to what was listed here.
2. Pack everything up.
—Package things securely.
—Fill out the customs card.
—Address the package according to USPS requirements for military mail:
Use the service member’s full name, include the unit and APO/FPO, include a return address, and print on one side only with the recipient’s address in the lower right portion.
Example from USPS:
SGT Robert Smith
PSC 802 Box 74
APO AE 09499-0074
Seaman Joseph Doe
FPO AP 96667-393
A MONDAY IN JUNE
(June 15 for us to make sure it arrives in time for independence day)
1. Go to the post office and send it off.
Sending the package on a Monday means less time lying around on a warehouse on weekends.
Now sit back on the Fourth of July and enjoy a little moment thinking about your soldier, knowing there’s a good chance the moment is mutual.