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No Pork in Iraq – What You Can Send in Care Packages to Our TroopsBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Believe it or not, there are a number of US soldiers and Marines and airmen deployed to the war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait who don't receive any mail from their families.
Many of these young men and women are fresh out of high school, others have been serving our country for years. They are putting their lives on the line daily, but often can't purchase basic hygiene items. Either they’re stationed in a remote area, or are on long missions "outside the wire," or their PX (military store) runs out of everyday items quickly.
While the military provides the troops with the basics, these don't always include enough of the small things we take for granted – like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, socks, portable snacks like jerky or nuts or raisins, AA batteries, or books.
A large number of our troops do have strong support and constant communication and care packages from their families and friends back home. Some, however, do not.
Many of them are homesick, disheartened, stressed, or afraid. They desperately need a morale boost. Sending a short, supportive card or letter or a small care package of inexpensive goodies or hygiene items would mean more to them than you'll ever know.
If you're planning on sending care packages to troops during Christmas, be sure to allow ample time for the package to be delivered. Normally, when sending to most forward operating bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kuwait, it takes a week to 11 days to arrive. It can take much longer for outlying bases, such as many that are situated in Afghanistan, to receive mail and packages. Consider the extra time for US post offices to send the packages to the APO/FPO address, and the time it will take for the people assigned to mail services in the war zones to sort them and get them on the right trucks. We recommend sending Christmas packages no later than December 7, to be sure that they'll arrive in good shape and well ahead of December 25.
Do NOT include homebaked items (unless you're sending it to a friend or relative), as the armed forces firmly instruct deployed troops to not eat anything unwrapped or homemade that comes from a stranger. Safety first! Additionally, homebaked goods don't travel as well because of their lack of preservatives.
If a package of homemade cookies is delayed, they could become stale or moldy before reaching their destination.
Most-Requested ItemsA breakdown of the most commonly requested items, through out the year, are below.
Non-Perishable Food Items
- Canned tuna, chicken, sardines, oysters, kippers, anchovies.
- Crackers, chips, microwave popcorn, beef jerky, packaged snacks, hard candy, gum, cough drops, lollipops, sunflower seeds, nuts, trail mix, canned or dried fruit, peanut butter, soups (both dry or canned).
- Coffee, teabags, dry creamers, sugar, sweeteners, hot cocoa packets, flavored drink mixes (like Wyler’s or Crystal Light), Kool-aid (preferably pre-sweetened because sugar is often scarce).
- Pretzels, cereal, instant oatmeal, Pop Tarts, granola bars, Easy Mac 'n Cheese, BBQ sauce, spices, ramen noodles, canned beef stew, canned tamales, Girl Scout cookies (a huge favorite), etc.
- Don't send anything that can melt (like chocolate or gummy-bear type candy), nothing with pork (prohibited by Muslim law). No breakable containers or homemade baked goods (military rule for soldiers’ safety). NEVER send aerosol cans or glass containers.
- Soap, shampoo, conditioner.
- Sunscreen, bug repellent, shaving items, eye drops, saline nasal spray (due to the frequent dust storms), body wash, baby wipes, medicated foot powder, lip balm, body/face lotion, towels, washcloths, Q-tips, vitamins, dark hair scrunchies and pale nail polishes for the women, tampons, tan T-shirts (all adult sizes).
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, nail clippers, mouthwash, anti-itch cream, athlete’s foot medication, hand sanitizer, adult socks, shower shoes/flip flops, skin care products, hair products for Black women, deodorant, boot shoelaces, winter gloves, watchman/knit winter caps (in dark, neutral colors), etc.
- Children's shoes, socks, play clothes, and coats have also been requested. Some soldiers are helping homeless Iraqi and Afghan families and children.
- Small, hotel/travel sizes of toiletries are much preferred by troops who are out on long missions. No aerosols or breakable containers.
- All kinds of books, especially new or used paperbacks for young men and women (thrillers, action, mysteries, historical, romance, religious, military) or magazines (sports, cars, fitness, guns, nature, world news, hunting/fishing, or "celebrity" oriented).
- Comic books, Sunday newspaper comics section, joke books, Mad Libs, etc.; wall calendars and battery-operated alarm clocks are also needed. No pornographic materials.
- Also needed: pens, pencils, stationery, envelopes, writing tablets, holiday decorations, and greeting/holiday cards for writing home. No postage stamps are needed because the troops are provided with free mail service.
- School supplies, coloring books, and crayons for soldiers to give to local children (avoid those items that have directions in English; this is not the children's native language).
Entertainment/Toys/Sports Items/Assorted "Comfort" Items
- AA & AAA batteries, playing cards, board games.
- Silly, fun things like water balloons, whoopee cushions, yo-yos, squirt guns, harmonicas, Frisbees, hackysacks, paddle balls, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, car model kits.
- New or used music CDs and DVD movies (most don't have VCRs, but do have CD/DVD players or a computer with DVD capability - be sure of the media equipment available before sending), used video games (again, be sure that capability exists - not all platoons/troops have capability).
- Balls of all kinds, baseball mitts, baseball caps.
- Gently used Beanie Babies or other small stuffed animals (many, while out on patrol, give these to local children to strengthen US relations, but some want a Beanie Baby of their own, because it reminds them of home).
- Neck coolers, journals or diaries, twin bed sheets, blankets, travel pillows, sports and craft items, etc. No breakable containers or aerosols.
- Phone cards. These can be pricey, and not all cards can be used in the war zones. The USO has a program that you can access online, USO Operation Phone Home, that is easy to use for phone-card purchasing to donate to our deployed troops. You can also call their toll-free number: 1-800-876-7469.
No kidding! A really good excuse to get rid of those things (don't buy new ones, collect them from your house and ask your friends)!! Send some in every package to ALL units as they are really easy for the Marines to carry with them and give to the local kids who love them. These are better then small plastic toys which will break easily and are not as easy to carry in a pack. There is NO more effective ambassador for our country than a Marine helping the local folks. This is done far more often then the press shows, and quite probably the most important thing a Marine will ever do.
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