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Care Packages BY JAKE KLEIN

Not many things brighten the day of our men and women in uniform more than a carefully planned care package.

While you can’t ship drinks overseas, Vaughn and other sources agree that troops love getting packets of powdered drink mixes, especially Gatorade and coffee. In addition to food and drink, certain personal supplies that are difficult to come by while serving overseas can make our troops’ lives much easier. Vaughn says that hygiene products and tobacco products are passed around and help build camaraderie. “Most infantry guys use chewing tobacco, and it’s really hard to come by when deployed,” he says. “The guys you’re out there with are your brothers. If you have something they want or need, you’re glad to give it to them.” Those who have sent and received care packages in the past also suggest sending some miscellaneous items. Items that will give the recipient a laugh, such as a high bounce ball or some other kind of fun toy will often help lighten the mood. Stay away from large items, but small balls and items such as sock monkeys are known to brighten up a dull day.

Once your package is ready to go, the next step is to write down everything in the box before you seal it up. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection require that you record every item in the package before mailing it. Instead of using plain cardboard boxes, consider using United States Postal Service flat rate boxes. As long as your items fit in the pre-paid box, the box ships no matter what the weight. You can pick these boxes up at the post office or order them online from www.usps.com, and the rates are similar for domestic and international shipping. Customs forms can be picked up at your local post office and should be filled out before you take your package to the post office. If the package is big, you might need more than one form. Remember that packages need at least two weeks to arrive at their overseas destination, so plan ahead!

Vaughn's packing suggestions Food:

Beef jerky Trail mix Protein bars Hot sauce Sunflower seeds Peanuts Seasoning salt (like Lawry’s) Hard candies Homemade cookies

Personal:

Magazines Ear plugs Lip balm Travel-size hygiene products Baby wipes Shampoo Soap Shaving lotion Batteries Tobacco products

What not to pack:

Things that will melt Sunscreen (plenty is provided) Alcohol Pornography

If you would like to send a care package to a service member but don’t have time to make one yourself, there are numerous organizations that will do it for you. Some organizations that are popular with military families include: Give2TheTroops www.give2thetroops.org AnySoldier www.anysoldier.com

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The first step in putting together a care package is deciding, “What do I pack?” Greg Vaughn, a Marine formerly stationed in southern Iraq, says, “A good care package has a little bit of everything in it: food, supplies, entertainment. Being deployed can sometimes feel like being in prison. You miss your friends, your family, good food and good fun. If you can pack enough to make station feel like home for just a few days, you’ve done a good job.”

Operation Shoebox www.operationshoebox.com If you would like to send a care package, but don’t personally know a service member, the United Service Organizations operates “Operation USO Care Package,” which takes a $25 donation and sends a care package and your personal note to a randomly selected deployed service member. Visit their website at:

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www.uso.org/operation-uso-care-package.aspx JULY 2012 | XX

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