Saturday, November 19, 2011

Remembering our troops - care package time again

It's Thanksgiving week and and one of the reasons Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is it's a palpable reminder to express gratitude.  For me, I truly feel gratitude not only when I express it but when I share it as a means of that expression.  Sometimes it's sharing of positive thought and emotions, spreading happiness by being happy.  Other times it's a more tangible expression.  And this week, in thinking of our military personnel being away from their homes and families during the holidays, I wanted to do my own small part to help and express my gratitude for their service.

In the past I've used organizations like to send in donations and packages or else I've asked friends who had family and friends in the military what they would like and where I can send a package.  This year, I asked an online friend, Madeline, from my fitness forum who has a son in the military what items he and his unit would like and where I can send a package to him.  She thought it was nice of me but I'm not doing it to be nice.  In all honesty, I thought it was literally the least I could do and little enough in light of what he and our troops were doing for me.  This is just an expression of gratitude.
I've blogged before about care package tips to friends and to my college-age nieces.  This is a different sort of post because sending care packages to military personnel requires different items and packaging tips.

First of all, to preserve their safety, you're not likely to know exactly where your care package is going or what the conditions will be like in that part of the world.  So you don't know if it'll be blazing hot, freezing cold, humid,  or arid.  That means the items you send have to withstand any type of temperature.  Unfortunately that likely means no chocolate candy as it potentially could be a melted mess if it's going to a hot climate.  Send hard candies or non-meltables like Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, Sweettarts, etc.  If you send packaged food items with items like soaps, be sure to wrap each separately and buffer them with other items between the two.  Do not send perfumed soaps.  In very hot climates, the perfume will permeate everything else in the box and potentially ruin the food.  To be safe, seal them separately in ziploc bags, especially anything like liquid soap which could leak or burst out of its container.

Second, you don't know how long your package is going to take to reach its destination.  So everything you send must either be non-perishable or at least have a long shelf life.  Beef jerky is an often-requested item from our troops and should be able to withstand the journey.  Same with coffee and tea.
Package items closely so things move as little as possible
Third, safety of our troops is paramount so that means there are things you absolutely cannot send.  In more innocuous care packages, I thrive on sending the stuff I've baked.  Can't do that with a military care package.  While I know there's nothing harmful in my baked goods (except an excess of calories), the military recipients don't know that.  Just like you can no longer hand out homemade goods to trick or treating kids on Halloween night and can/should only hand out packaged candies and the like, only sealed, packaged food should be sent in a military care package.

Fourth, remember the contents of your care package are more than likely going to be shared within the unit.  Try to send individually packaged items or items that can be easily shared.  And remember women serve in the military as well so don't be shy about sending "feminine" stuff.

Lastly, in the US, the Post Office has flat rate priority mail packaging expressly meant for military care packages.  You can fit as many items as possible and pay only the flat rate, no matter how heavy it is.  See here for the guidelines, restrictions and rates on sending to an APO/FPO/DPO address.  As with any package, tape it securely and write the address legibly.  And whatever else you put in the package, don't forget a note to thank them for their service and that you're thinking of them.  I know I can safely enjoy my Thanksgiving with family and friends at home because of where they are and what they're doing.  And I appreciate and am grateful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

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