Deployment can be rough for everyone involved. Being away from loved ones and the comforts of home can make the days seem long and often lonely. Care packages from home are a ray of sunshine for a soldier, and can give family members at home an active way to reach out and show their love across the miles.
If you’re looking for ideas to make a great care package, you can combine some of the most-requested items below, and then take it to another level by setting a theme for the package and decorating the inside of the box. When your loved one opens the box and sees the extra care you took in creativity and time, it’s sure to mean even more.
Some items to include in your care package include:
- Things to do in the downtime: Games, cards, video games, mp3 player filled with music, e-reader, books, plastic model kits, etc.
- Clothing for comfort: socks (white is best), shirt from home sports teams and places
- Non-perishable treats: Peanut butter, beef jerky, store-bought cookies, individual packets of flavoring for water, local barbecue sauce or hot sauce (individual packets like those from Taco Bell are great), sunflower seeds, nuts
- Things to make life more comfortable: lip balm, lens cleaning cloths, pain relieving topical cream, Vicks VapoRub (make sure to package these in separate sealable bags from other items in case they get damaged in transit)
- Things to avoid: Things that get easily destroyed (like chips); anything that could be considered culturally insensitive (especially movies, posters, etc.)
A fun way to make your care packages extra special is to build off a theme, selecting items based on the theme and decorating the interior of your box (the inside of the flaps and the bottom inside of the box). You can use scrapbooking paper and letters to make it super-simple, giving an extra surprise to the recipient when he or she opens the box.
Here are 9 fun themes for your next care package:
- Holidays – An easy way to choose a theme, small holiday items and decorations can deliver a taste of home’s traditions, even when across the sea. Choose all-green packaged items and throw in some shamrock confetti for St. Patrick’s Day, or include candy corn, dress-up mustaches, and fake cobwebs for Halloween. A fun idea for Christmas is to build off the 12 days of Christmas, individually wrapping 12 items to be opened one day at a time.
- Missing You: The idea behind this theme is to be sure to include the words on the flaps of the box, so that the soldier sees them when he or she opens the box. Ideas include: “Sorry I’m Cheesy!” (include Cheese-It crackers, Cheese Whiz, cheese-dip/cracker combos) or “I’m Nuts About You” (include a variety of nuts and seeds).
- Patriotic/Branch-Specific: Choose classic red, white, and blue decorations, with added emphasis on your recipient’s branch, including stickers, logos, or sayings specific to their branch or unit. You could include photos from the military ball or you with them in their uniform. American flags are always a great touch, and include a message of being proud of your solider/airman/etc.
- Characters: A fun and easy theme can draw on popular characters, especially super-heroes. Include t-shirts stickers, movies, and candy with Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman, and be sure to add the message that you love or miss your superhero!
- Encouragement: Deployment can be tough; if your loved one could use a morale boost, why not include a message of encouragement in your package? For example: “Hang in There!” (monkey-themed decorations), “Box of Sunshine” (all contents are yellow), or “You’re One Tough Cookie” (small packages of cookies like Oreos).
- Hobbies/Interests: What was your soldier’s favorite hobby back at home? Play off of that as you decorate your box and select the contents. For example, a fishing package could include Swedish fish, goldfish crackers, and gummy worms. Movie-lovers might like popcorn, theater-sized boxes of candy (not chocolate if sending to hotter climates), and a few DVDs. Maybe he or she loves to drink coffee; you could include flavored coffee or creamer, individual foam cups and lids, and stir sticks.
- Birthday in a Box: It can be extra-hard to be away from family and friends on your birthday, so a decorated party in a box can be a really special gift. Include noisemakers, streamers, party hats, and confetti. Gather as many birthday cards as you can from loved ones here at home to include, along with some favorite treats (and maybe even a candle). You could record the family singing happy birthday in a video, put it on a USB drive, and include that as well!
- Coming Home: Probably your favorite theme, celebrate the countdown until they return! Include stickers, postcards, and decorations from the home state (like, “Texas Bound!”), and items like a t-shirt from a favorite local restaurant, a hat from a local sports team, or home-sourced snacks you can only find in your city.
However fancy or simple your care package ends up being, know that it will be appreciated greatly by your deployed loved one. The reminder that he or she is loved, admired, missed, and not alone is a priceless gift.
Written by Megan Hammons