Because I loved receiving mail while deployed, I try to send a couple military care packages off every year. If you’ve never sent a package, there are a few key things you should know. This list is for those military care package newbies.
1. Who wants a military care package? If you don’t have someone specific you’d like to send a package, check out these sites and find a military member that would love to receive a little gratitude in the mail.
Any Soldier- Created by a soldier. They provide the mailing address, you provide the package
Operation Gratitude- Send in donations and they send off the package
Troop Care Pack- Send pre-packed items to soldiers
2. What do I send? As I detailed in my Christmas care package post, I loved getting:
Food: Drink mixes, beef jerky, trail mix, protein bars, gum, chocolate (Oct-Mar only or it melts)
Other stuff: Old magazines (no pornography please), quality ear plugs, bungee cords, chapstick, hotel-size hygiene products, baby wipes (in small containers), fly swatters or strips
Find out if your soldier is in the middle of nowhere or on a Forward Operating Base (FOB) and design the package around the service member’s current mission.
READ THIS: Jot down everything you’re packing in the box before you seal it up as you’ll need that list for the next step.
3. What are the postal requirements? This is the only not so fun thing about sending care packages… custom forms. Although letters don’t require a customs form, you’ll need one for a care package. Hopefully, after viewing this guide, it will be easy-schmeasy.
Here’s a great outline for a customs form that I found:
Here’s my example form for my fictional Private Joe Snuffy care package (Nope, I never stay in those little hash marks with my letters and, yes, I always mix up the first name, last name part.)
Take a couple of these forms the next time you’re picking up stamps or running an errand by the post office and fill this baby out at home. If you’re like me and you always mess up the first one (case in point above), it will be a lot easier to do it again without angry peeps in line behind you. Also note that last checked box as it sends the package back to you if your service member moved or came home before the box arrived.
Oh, and just so you know, sending a box “Priority” or “Overnight” only means quick delivery to the port in the United States. Once it gets into the military mail system, there is no such thing as priority.
4. When do I send a package? NOW! O.K., if you can’t send one right this second, think about sending one this summer. There really isn’t anything better than receiving mail when you’re deployed. Packages need at least two weeks to arrive at their destination so plan ahead for holidays, especially Christmas.
Don’t think you have time to send a care package right now? Send a service member a thoughtful email through USO (United Service Organization). It only takes a few seconds to express your gratitude for our heroes.
Comment if you have additional questions or tips. Happy packing!
*** UPDATE: For security reasons, leave the rank off the package and customs form and instead just write the soldier’s first and last name. ***