Memorial Day, as you hopefully know, is a holiday celebrating the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
It originated after the Civil War, America’s bloodiest conflict. A massive array of cemeteries were established, creating a unique season in American history where its citizens were unwittingly honoring its fallen soldiers en masse.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be an ideal time to send care packages to current military servicemen and women. It’s a somber holiday, at least in theory, although its place as a gateway into summer has led it to become a more festive occasion as well.
Still, as we think about honoring those who have given their lives, it frames the service of active military men and women in a new way. It punctuates the risk, and the stakes, that they have voluntarily entered into.
Sounds like something to appreciate, doesn’t it?
How to Donate and Send Care Packages
There are countless services out there for sending care packages to your particular loved one who is serving. But know that the same goes for sponsoring or “adopting” servicemen and women whom you may not personally know.
Some care package services are curated with well-known desired items, although most at least leave room for you to send something personal, such as a note or letter. Other services handle the logistics of sending care packages on your behalf, but do not determine what will be sent.
We’ve listed out a number of those services here, as well as direct quotations from their websites that describe that provided service.
“Support Our Troops® Care Packages enhance the morale and well-being of the deployed troops worldwide by seeking, receiving, and shipping to the front lines care boxes containing items specifically requested by the deployed troops.”
“Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of the Military and First Responder communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for civilians anywhere in America to express their appreciation to all who serve our nation.”
“Collect items for our standard care package by hosting a care package drive at your workplace, school, organization or place of worship! You don’t need to know a member of the military to collect items for us to ship.”
“You can adopt an individual military troop member and support him or her through sending weekly letters/cards, and optional care packages to your soldier for the length of their deployment, OR you can sign up for Project Frontlines for a one-time or short-term support only.”
“Click through the names and YOU select who YOU wish to support, then YOU send direct to them. We have a unique search capability so you can easily identify what the troops need, who you wish to support, etc.”
“Our Care Packages are always stuffed with a wonderful array of high quality items that troops consistently request and come with a personal note from you to make sure they know they are not forgotten. For over a decade we have been sending our love and support to combat deployed troops with the most requested items like Gourmet Coffee and Beef Jerky.”
If you scan the many available care package services, you’ll begin to notice that many of the same items and ideas come up for what to send, as well as what not to send. Here are some of the commonly requested (and discouraged items) for military care packages. This is especially for those of you who are creating a care package from scratch or gathering packages from a larger community:
- Hygiene items (e.g., shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, chap-stick)
- Music, movies, or personal videos (on flash drives, USB drives, etc.)
- Bug spray
- Personal local food items (such as local BBQ sauce)
- Beef jerky
- Games (video games, board games, card games, etc.)
- Granola bars
- Sunflower seeds
- Batteries (AA and AAA especially)
- Shoe insole cushions
- Especially handwritten letters, notes, postcards, etc.
The “Do-Not-Send” List
- Illegal drugs
- Home-cooked anything (soldiers are told to throw away anything not factory-packaged)
- Large packages
As one former soldier wrote, “Being deployed to Iraq had its ups and downs, but receiving packages from home definitely made the time I spent there less stressful.” Check out that article, by the way, for a behind-the-scenes look at what deployed troops really want in their care packages.
In light of Memorial Day, it makes total sense to train our gaze overseas. The U.S. experienced more fatalities in the recent Iraq War than in the American Revolution, and thus the possibility of troops sacrificing their lives in service today is as real as it ever was.
Consider sending care packages to current troops, either as a one-time gift or an ongoing adoption-type scenario. You can absolutely initiate a group donation, but if you’ve never done it, you should probably get your feet wet with an individual gift. One care package service puts it even more strongly: “Don’t even consider doing a ‘collection’ until you have actually sent at least one care package yourself.”
Happy Memorial Day. May we all enjoy ourselves and yet remember the meaning behind our days off.