Ways to Support Our Troops
Friends and family often ask what they can do for me and DH. We appreciate their thoughts and prayers and are thankful that we are blessed with a wonderful support network.
While there are always things that might make DH's deployment easier and more comfortable, both of us want for very little.
So, these offers of help always makes me think of the soldiers who do not have such a large, loving group of family and friends.
Remember that our troops are adults who volunteered (or at least re-enlisted or continued their commitment) during wartime. Even so, these warriors who fight for our nation deserve our support (regardless of our political beliefs).
The Soldier You Know
If you know a soldier, many soldiers are comforted by news from home, well wishes from friends and family, and images of their home town.
Take some pictures and get everyone to write a message on the back of the photograph. Gather up some local products that will ship well and send a care package.
If you do not know a soldier, there are programs that will match you with soldiers (such as Any Soldier or Soldier's Angels).
Send Letters and Packages
Regardless of whether you are offering your support to an old friend or a new friend you found on a website, do not underestimate the value of a simple letter. Soldiers like to know that we are behind them and appreciate their loyalty and their sacrifices.
Postage is the same as sending anything to a domestic destination. Letters and packages tend to arrive more reliably (anecdotally) through priority mail. Priority mail is not much more costly than regular 1st class and can make the difference in your package arriving and arriving in a timely manner. Packages may take up to 20 days, but I spoke with a postal worker whose son is deployed and he said most packages arrive in 10-12 days.
Since some will want to send more, there are a number of websites that provide suggestions and possible theme ideas for CARE packages.
Iraq now has a number of P/X (Post Exchanges) that sell most of the items soldiers need. So, as per this article posted at The Patriette, sending specialty or local products is more in need now than razors and baby wipes. At the same time, some soldiers are not near a P/X and would still appreciate those essentials. Soldiers also share and any care package will be put to good use. When in doubt, just ask!
Pressurized items should not be sent through the mail and some items are prohibited to our troops in theater, such as alcohol or pornography.
For the bakers out there, Nestle has some Tips for Sending Baked Goods. Others suggest adding a slice of bread to absorb excess moisture and wrapping in tin foil. I've also heard that Pringles containers make for good packaging. I have bought a food sealer to use for our Family Readiness Group (FRG)--I am the co-leader.
Remember that chocolate does not survive well in the Middle East.
Agencies and Organizations That Help
If you are still unsure of what to purchase, USO Operation Care Package takes the guess work out of sending a care package. You donate money and they pack and ship and you can still send a personal message with your package.
If you have a company or an entire school or town who would like to maximize your donations, consider Adopting a Platoon.
Beyond the Mail
If Care Packages are not quite your cup of tea, there are a ton of other ways to help. Remember when donating to a charity to do your research:
Operation Hero Miles allows you to donate your unused airline miles so troops can fly home free and family members can visit wounded soldiers for free.
Valour-it provides wounded soldiers with voice-activated laptops while they are hospitalized.
The Fisher House is a home-away-from home for the families of seriously ill or injured soldiers receiving treatment.
Beyond Active Duty Troops
Please also do not forget the children of our fallen warriors and our veterans.
Donate to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or send a Valentine to Any Veteran.
Here are some more ways to help.
As you can see, whether you have prayers, time, or money to spare, there are a variety of meaningful ways to support our troops.
Cell Phones For Soldiers: They hope to provide as many soldiers as possible with prepaid calling cards for now, with an ultimate goal of providing banks of satellite phones, video phones and VOIP communications. Through generous donations and the recycling of used cell phones from drop-off sites across the country, they have already distributed thousands of calling cards to soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.