by Amanda Marksmeier, Guest Contributor
Whether you are shipping your first care package or your last it can be difficult to know what to include and what to leave out.
Items such as firearms, explosives and radioactive materials should not be included, but did you know many foreign countries ban the shipping and receiving of playing cards, used clothes and saccharine?
Your Don’t Pack It Guide for Deployment Care Packages
Our service members deploy to countries with strict religious beliefs and rules. If you are sending care packages to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or any other predominately Muslim country do not pack pork products. Many people in these regions follow diets which prohibit foods made from pigs, so that means no bacon bits.
While we are on the subject of religion, anti-Muslim books, articles, and movies are strictly forbidden so don’t send them. Also, anything considered lewd or pornographic should not be included. It is important to be respectful of others’ customs and beliefs.
Cash and high-valued items should be left at home. Packages can “disappear,” be damaged or simply lost in the mail.
Pro-tip: if you can’t afford to lose it, don’t pack it!
This goes for items that hold sentimental value as well. While you may be tempted to send family heirlooms don’t, these items can’t be replaced if lost or damaged.
What You Should Send in Deployment Care Packages
Now comes the fun part, what you can include in a care package.
Non-perishable food is the No. 1 requested item. Think canned tuna, instant meals, jerky, ramen, I could go on, but you get the idea. In many cases, soldiers miss meals due to missions or the inability to make it to the DFAC. Your service member will be grateful to have a meal from home after a long day.
Care packages are a perfect excuse to print all those pictures saved in your digital cloud. Service members can hang photos in their bunk, tape them to vehicles or keep them in the pockets of their uniforms.
It’s comforting to have photos of friends and family near you on deployment.
Fragrant soaps and washes should be packed separately in plastic bags. I once sent my husband a box of soaps (not in plastic bags) packed with candies. He ended up with candies that tasted like soap!
More Care Packages Tips
Mailing packages is expensive! The U.S. Post Office offers free flat rate boxes to help with the costs. Care packages in flat rate boxes can be sent to APO/FPO/DPO at domestic shipping rates.
Save a trip to the post office by ordering your shipping supplies for free through the USPS website. Schedule a pick-up, pay for shipping and complete the customs forms all online at https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-dpo.htm.
Oh, those darn customs forms! Don’t be afraid. Custom forms aren’t as scary as they appear. All you need is your service member’s address, the list of items and an estimated value of each item in the care package.
The Click-N-Ship option on the USPS website walks through the steps to complete customs forms. Custom forms need to be completed for each package you send.
Related: Tips on Sending a Care Package to a Military Dog
Themed care packages are all the rage. Not feeling creative? No problem, borrow someone else’s ideas. Carefully crafted boxes are posted all over social media. Visit military spouse Facebook pages to ask for care package ideas. Also search Pinterest for military care packages. Have fun, be creative and think “inside” the box.
Books, movies and magazines make wonderful additions to care packages. Deployed service members work long hours in harsh conditions so when there is downtime entertainment is desperately needed.
I am sure everyone remembers the “Frozen” videos with service members belting out “Let it Go.” You know they watched the movie a dozen times to learn the song. Maybe we’ll be blessed with “This is Me” sing-a-longs in the future.
Add extra items so your service member can share with his or her battle buddies. Remember not everyone has someone to send them care packages.
The most important part of a care package is the “care” that is included. Packages remind the men and woman serving they have not been forgotten.
What questions do you have about sending care packages?
Amanda Marksmeier is an Army wife and mother of four. She works as an employment specialist assisting the military community in achieving their career goals. Amanda is also a contributing writer for a quarterly employment journal and has written for several military affiliated blogs.