Care Packages to the Front

Here is an email from my last care package:

Dear Brian,
Thanks for the goodies, they were a big hit here as usual.  I admit I am a boxaholic, thanks for supporting my addiction.  🙂
Fruit roll up things are awesome.  Good pick.  People ask me what I want, and I never really know, and wouldn’t want to tell them because they might miss coming up with something like that.  They were a treat.
I hope all is well there in Michigan.
You rock.

My cousin has been stationed in Iraq since February, and I’ve been sending him a “care package” every month. These packages range in items from home-baked goods to candy, and even Star Wars figures for his desk.

After he received his first package, he started making requests via e-mail. By the second package, he started making requests for items for other members of his unit.

Apparently, I had inadvertently adopted them all .  Like a summer camp camper’s, who then shares the goodies with his bunkmates, my cousin has become the most popular guy in his unit. One member wanted fresh coffee beans, while another requested beef jerky. Granola bars seemed to be a favorite with everyone.

And it’s easy. I learned that these packages get to my cousin in Iraq faster than packages I send domestically. Most packages will get overseas in a little over a week.

To send a package to someone in the military, you only have to send it to a base in the United States to an APO/FPO address. Ask your friend or family member in service where to send it to. The military will then pick up the tab for getting it from the U.S. to the soldiers, wherever they are stationed. The U.S. Post Office even offers a discount rate for APO/FPO destinations.

I have picked up a few things after sending 10 packages overseas. For starters, e-mail the person you are planning to send the package to and ask what is wanted or needed. Don’t just throw in random stuff. Also ask if there is anything a person in their group would like. My cousin for example asked for healthier items this time instead of the usually sweet baked goods, so I threw in health food store fruit leather, which was a huge hit and the best part is that it does not take up much room.

Also throw in a little something for Iraqi kids. My cousin requests gum, which he likes to hand out to grateful children. The kids also seem to be crazy about beanie baby toys. They stuff small, which makes them easy for troops to carry into the field to hand out.

As for what not to send, I learned the hard way that anything chocolate is likely to melt. Temperatures in Iraq can run into the 120s depending on the time of year, so those well-meaning chocolate bars you send will be melted puddles by the time they reach that part of the world. If you make home-baked goods, note any nuts, nut oils or potential allergy ingredients. A member of my cousin’s group cannot eat peanuts, so I make sure to find granola bar he can eat.

If you are sending clothes, make sure they are durable and not something cheap from the dollar store. Remember, they have to hold up to wartime conditions.

And keep your packages on the small size. Remember that you are sending your package to a war zone, and the logistics of handling large packages can overburden our military. If you have a lot, consider dividing up the packages in half.

Lastly, if you say you will send a package, make sure you send it out ASAP. They will be looking forward to getting your package, and may even tell their buddies about it. One time, I said I was going to send a package and then got busy with school and life and blew it off. My cousin rightfully so gave me an ear full about not keeping my promise and how he look and his buddies looks forward towards getting this packages and I felt like a real heel. The guy is in a war zone and I am cozy in my house in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After that, I have always got my packages out ASAP.

If you do not know a friend or family member overseas, ask around and offer to go in on a care package for someone who does. You can also contact charities and veterans’ groups that organize care packages to the troop like

And make sure you review the rules of what you can send when sending through a charity. For example, you can send home-baked goods directly to a friend or family member, but if you are sending a package through a charity, it only accepts packaged food items. All home-made items will be thrown out.

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