If you’ve ever been deployed, you know how important care packages are to the troops. When they arrive there is a tangible sense of excitement because inside are little things that bring home closer to you.
The more austere the deployment, the greater the sense of joy upon receiving a care package. The importance of these packages can’t be overstated. They offer comfort and a little bit of normalcy, even if just for a moment, in a challenging environment.
USAMM veterans, whose deployments range from the 1980s to the Global War on Terror, have put their heads together and come up with a list of the top 7 military care package ideas to help you shop, pack and send your favorite deployed service member a little bit of home.
1. Military Care Package Ideas – Meat Lovers Package
Let’s face it, because most military activities downrange are robust, military service members love protein. Sure, you can send protein bars and protein drink mix, but most military members love meat.
That said, one of the better military care package ideas is the meat lovers package which is chock full of beef jerky, meat sticks and sausages. The thing to remember here is to purchase items that will not spoil, so if it requires refrigeration, it’s out.
If you get beef jerky, remember to get a variety of flavors such as teriyaki, regular or even hot and spicy. Beef jerky will make the trek overseas quite easily since it is dehydrated and sealed. Similarly, meat sticks come in a variety of flavors and like jerky, they are portable snacks that can curb hunger but at the same time provide some needed protein.
Sausages in cans are okay if the cans are durable and won’t leak. Sausages that are wrapped in airtight packaging and do not have any storage requirements are good bets. Remember though, the military has vegans, so plan accordingly. There are plant-based jerky and sausage items that can be a good replacement for meat.
2. Military Care Package Ideas – The Library Package
Service members on deployment face considerable down time. In between missions, during transit, and whenever they can squeeze it in, many service personnel like to read. One of the better military care package ideas is to send books, current magazines, comic books, and even crossword puzzle or game books.
It is easy to find donations for these care packages. Many people buy books, read them, and then donate them. Getting on a social media app and asking for donations is one way to get books. Another is to visit the local library and see if they have any titles they are removing from their shelves. Thrift shops always have low priced books. The key is to ensure you buy paperback. Hardcover books are heavy and can make a box very heavy.
Magazines are great too and it helps service members keep up with what’s happening in the world. Depending on the magazine, it also offers them a bit of release. Of course, game books, are a great way for service members to get their minds off their work for a little bit.
Remember, know your audience. Don’t send an infantry company a box full of home décor publications. Make it relevant. Magazines can be rolled up and stuffed inside of places that make them easy to carry and use. Lastly, the services have men and women, and people of all cultures and ethnicities; variety is good.
3. Military Care Package Ideas – Java Package
One of the military care package ideas that never fails is the java package. It’s no secret, military men and women love their coffee. Duty hours during deployments can be long and coffee serves an important role downrange.
There are many military-centric coffee brands now on the market. Try approaching some and let them know what you’re doing. You might be able to get some free samples to send to those overseas. But understand, they are likely approached about the same thing several times per month, so much will depend on your pitch.
Like beef jerky, coffee comes in all flavors so ensure to get different types to fit just about every taste. French Vanilla, espresso, pecan, super-caffeinated, cinnamon, black, French Roast, can help offer something to everyone. Ensure to send some filters too, for different coffee makers, and if you’ve got the money or a generous donor, send whole bean coffees along with some grinders. Not much beats a fresh cup of ground coffee in the morning.
4. Military Care Package Ideas – Toiletries
When a service member deploys, they carry what they will need for the duration of the deployment. That means that they bring a minimal amount of personal hygiene items, so they don’t have to pack too much.
A care package packed full of toiletries items is always a big hit. Bars of soap, foot powder, sunscreen, lip balm, lotion, shampoo, floss, tooth and hairbrushes, shower shoes, combs, diaper wipes, deodorant/anti-perspirant, toilet paper, tissues, toothpaste, nail clippers, feminine hygiene products, and even hair cutting kits are all great items to send. The more austere the deployment, the more appreciative they will be of these types of items.
5. Military Care Package Ideas – Game Night
Chaplains, family support groups, and even MWR do great jobs at providing entertainment options for our service members, but there is nothing wrong with offering more help in that arena. Organizing a box full of games would be welcomed by deployed troops.
Make sure to include the basics like multiple decks of playing cards, but also include game cards like Uno. Old standards like chess, checkers, and backgammon are a must and ensure you buy games with a cardboard game surface and plastic pieces. Plastic and cardboard games are lighter, and they will handle the rigors of a deployed environment much better. Favorites like Monopoly, Battleship, Connect 4 and other popular board games are great too.
If you have a trusted leader in the unit to ship it to, you can also get donations and send them a video game console along with several games that the unit can place in a common area for everyone to enjoy. Remember, include some games or get clarity on what connectivity looks like on the ground before you send something that they might not be able to use.
6. Military Care Package Ideas – Letters from Home
We’ve talked a lot about things that feed and care for the body, but here’s a care package that takes care of the soul. Our USAMM veteran panel agreed, nothing beats a letter from home.
The good news here is that if you’re sending letters to a company of 200 soldiers, you don’t have to write 200 letters. You can get some help. Many churches, youth groups (think scouts), military charities and even businesses will help write letters. Some schools will even do this as a project for Veterans Day.
The help is all around you and all you have to do is ask. Service men and women will tell you, a letter from home, even from a stranger, makes them feel supported.
7. Military Care Package Ideas – Seasonal Stuff
Even though the military gives our service members what they need, little extras can make their lives even better. In a place like Iraq, where it is hot most of the time, hydration drink mixes might be a nice treat instead of overly treated water. Similarly, in places where it can get cold in the winter, things like long underwear, gloves, thick socks, watch caps, hand warmers, and other warm clothing items can help stop the chill.
Hopefully this list helps, but when in doubt just remember to send stuff that isn’t heavy and that won’t spoil, spill, or break in transit. Make sure what you’re sending is useful and will be used. The last thing you want to do is overburden the supply and mail channels.
Most importantly, the troops will appreciate the support.