To a deployed service member, a care package can mean the world. Getting mail in a foreign land with news from home is one comfort, but a box of goodies is quite another.
Some time ago, Redditor rcmaudlin asked his fellow service members on the web forum about their favorite items to find in those precious packages.
“My brother is on his 2nd deployment in Afghanistan & I want to send him a care package,” he posted. “To Redditors who have been deployed, what are the things you used or enjoyed the most during deployment?”
With no shortage of opinions, hundreds of other Redditors responded with their own tips for packing the perfect care package. Here’s a list of our favorites:
10. Juice Pouches
Several suggest sending packets of powdered drink mix, whether it be juice or tea. Redditor ChrisF79 said it’s probably one of the easiest ways to find sweet refreshment, and when you’re under layers of body armor in the middle of the desert.
“I had a buddy deployed and I went to the store and just bought a ton of random things. However, the one thing that he raved about was the Kool Aid,” he posted. “I got the kind that already has the sugar mixed in (think Country Time Lemonade style) that he could just pour straight into water. Plus, when you send stuff, try and send stuff he can share. My impression is that those guys are pretty nice about sharing with their friends.”
Follow us on Instagram
Get deals on patriotic items from The Veterans Site store each week!
9. Fresh Sheets
“When I was deployed, the best thing I ever received was freshly washed sheets that smelled like the laundry my wife did,” one Redditor posted.
While that may seem like a stretch to keep warm sheets arriving by air mail on the regular, a fresh pair can really mean a lot to someone so far from home. Who knows when the next good night sleep will be.
8. Baby Wipes
Don’t worry, the military still has its minimum enlistment age set at 18. Baby wipes are just so useful!
According to Redditor Kelvanir, baby wipes were just as crucial as a rice cooker and a sriracha.
If the name “Lieutenant Dan” means anything to you, you probably also understand the importance of a fresh pair of socks. Today’s soldiers aren’t serving in the paddies of Vietnam these days, but clean and proper footwear is important in any climate.
As one Redditor posted, boot socks often get overlooked. G.I. socks are supplied, but that extra attention to hygiene is important.
“Underarmour makes some badass moisture wicking socks, they go up to the knee and stay up all day even over my hugeass calves, and they’re not thick like the wool socks you’ll find most places,” Redditor meow tiger posted. “Very comfortable, they breathe pretty well, and they last. they’re decently expensive, i think $8/pair at my px, but it’s worth it, i rotate about 4-5pairs.”
6. Cooking/Camp Gear
Being prepared is the name of the game on a tour of duty. If you don’t have it, you can’t use it. Redditor IOIOOIIOIO points out that camp flatware, or even a metal spork, can prove useful. On top of that, “something snack-like that doesn’t require special climate conditions and can be passed around to everyone in the unit.”
5. Knit items
Military service life isn’t always very hot. Sometimes it’s very cold, too. In those circumstances, a warm reminder from home can make a big difference. Redditor Ember 357 shared the success of a knitting group she started with friends.
“A few of the ladies and fellows where I work are starting a knitting project for scarves and helmet liners for soldiers in Afganistan,” she posted. “The place can get ball shrivelingly cold and we are knitting desert camo colored gear for them. Last year our care packages included fleece pillowcase. We got back alot of letters asking for more of those. ps- Kudos to the boss man for authorizing the corporate funds to buy the yarn for this.”
4. Toilet Paper
What the military doesn’t have to provide, it’s likely not going to. Toilet tissue isn’t impossible to find, but G.I. T.P. isn’t exactly known for its luxurious feel. Redditor and veteran Lukacia, along with providing a comprehensive list of great ideas, pointed out the value of a good roll in one of the thread’s top-voted posts.
Just try to imagine that you are in a place for a year with no comforts of home…what is something that you take for granted is always around, but now realize you can’t just go to the store and buy,” Lukacia wrote. “Sometimes the littlest things can bring a smile to military personnel, be it a small bag of gummy worms, or a newspaper from your hometown. My nephew sent me a kid’s spiderman pillow and I carried that with me throughout the whole deployment.”
3. Instant Coffee
No one expects to find an iced Americano waiting for them when they land overseas, but some days, a packet of instant coffee can fill the position.
According to redditor shanedoth, “The best part, of course, is that you learn to love the coffee powder because caffeine is awesome, and concentrated caffeine is even awesomer.”
2. Petroleum Jelly
Where does it come from? Where does it all go might be a better question for some recruits. This stuff is actually quite versatile, according to Redditor Shorvok.
“I don’t know how it would apply in Afghanistan, but a cousin of mine did 3 deployments in Iraq. He asked me to send him LOTS of petroleum jelly. I would always send him like 20 jars of it along with other stuff,” he posted. “He said that he shared it, and they all used the heck of out it. He said they covered their faces with it when out on patrol or if they got turret duty as it kept the sand blowing in the wind from hurting so much. It works well on the lips, protects cuts, works as a mild sunscreen, as well as a lot of medical and personal applications. Lukacia pretty much said it all, but it seemed my cousin could never get enough of the petroleum jelly.”
Ask any vet. Sometimes service life gets boring. Resourceful friends and family posted stateside can help out by sending burned or purchased DVDs, USB drives, even entire hard drives full of their favorite shows. Finding a buddy with a laptop shouldn’t be too hard after that.
Lukacia said a little cooperation on base actually provided the means for many others to enjoy shows and movies while stationed overseas.
“We had a couple of guys that did this, but we found the DVD’s to be better,” the Redditor posted. “We ended up setting up a library of sorts in one of our tents and ‘rented’ out movies and books to whoever wanted it.”
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.