Supporting the Troops With Care Packages

Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.
The Citadel Heroes Project. Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.

We are approaching Thanksgiving time, and the time to send care packages to troops for the holidays.

At The Citadel a great volunteer effort was started several years ago to send boxes to deployed cadets and graduates, The Citadel Heroes Project.

I’ve written about this effort before. The time to send donations for their holiday mailing is now. Susie Maghakian of the Krause Leadership Center on campus is the staff coordinator for the project. Theresa Chamberlain is the parent of a graduate and is the current volunteer coordinator of the program.

For a list of suggested items you can visit the Citadel Family Association page for the project, just note that the contact information is out of date for Susie.

Please send your donations of items for the boxes, or a check for the postage made out to The Citadel Heroes Project, to:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 171 Moultrie Street, The Citadel Station, Charleston, SC  29409

or if you are sending items via UPS or other carrier use the physical address on campus:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 201 Richardson Ave, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409

Phone: 843-953-5815

People always ask what should be included in care packages. A general rule is not to send items that have a short shelf life. Mail can be delayed and items like home-baked good soften arrived spoiled.

If you Google “what to send a deployed soldier” quite a few sites with suggestions will pop up. Give 2 the Troops is one of many sites you will find that offer a list of items. I’ll include a few suggestions here, but please note this list is not exhaustive. If you know the person you are sending items to, ask them what they would like and would appreciate. Some units have ready access to day to day items, others do not.

Saran Wrap: I have recently learned that including a roll of saran wrap in a care package could help save a soldier’s life. In a recent email from a Citadel grad who is working as a contractor in Afghanistan he wrote: “Its use would be as an emergency field medical expedient dressing to wrap hastily around the chest of a torso-wounded teammate to prevent death by ‘sucking chest wound.’  Some SF medics I work with have recommended this technique.  I’m sure it would have other practical uses as well.”

Snacks: Individual packets of trail mix and nuts, granola bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, fruit leather, jerky, hard candy, chewing gum, small packets of cookies, individual serving containers of noodles. If they have access to a microwave the individual meals are great.

Beverage powder: Individual drink packets to be added to water – all flavors; hot chocolate packets; instant coffee; powdered creamer

Sauces: Dipping sauces from your local fast food store; hot sauces

Non food items: soft toilet paper, baby wipes, Q-Tips, in the winter month hand warmers, disposable razors, feminine hygiene products-if you know there are women in the unit

Personal care items (do not include in the same box as food): shampoo, shaving cream in squeeze tubes, liquid body soap, deodorant, sun screen

Homemade goodies: Cake in a Jar. You can find several recipes for this online. See this link for one recipe.

Other items: School supplies, like pencils, paper, crayons. These items are given to the local school children; wrapped candies

Socks, Underwear, T-Shirts : If you know the soldier and their sizes these items are appreciated. Covert Threads is a great resource for good socks for soldiers. THey have a buy 10 get three free policy which makes the socks even more affordable. It is a great option for groups sending items out.

Packing tips:

Take items and individual packets out of the box they came in and put them in a zip lock bag. You can fit more in a care package this way and the ziplock bag can be used for other things once the solder has the box. Plus, they have to burn their trash.

Do not mix scented items with food items.

If you try to send home-baked goods vacuum pack them.

Add some fun items like a deck of cards, photos of friends and family, letters and drawings from children, fun toys from the dollar store to blow off steam

I'm inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. Note the packets of oatmeal and breakfast bars (on the left side of hte photo) are repacked into ziplock bags. THe cardboard wrapping on the socks was removed before shipping them to Afghanistan. The clothing items were packed in vacuum bags so help get more into the boxes. photo by Stanley Leary
I’m inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. Note the packets of oatmeal and breakfast bars (on the left side of the photo) are repacked into ziplock bags. The cardboard wrapping on the socks was removed before shipping them to Afghanistan. The clothing items were packed in vacuum bags so help get more into the boxes.
photo by Stanley Leary

The United States Postal Service has a great webpage with instructions on how to ship to APO/FPO/DPO addresses.

See this list from the USPS of items not to send.

Several organizations support the troops year round. I will list a few here that I have contacted myself:

Military Families Ministries

Operation Gratitude

Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes


Giving Thanks and Supporting Our Soldiers

Boxes packed and ready to go to our soldier and the battalion chaplain.

As I wrote last week, this time of year holds some wonderful memories, but also the grief of losing both parents to cancer at this time of year. To counter act the feelings of loss I’ve developed positive ways to deal with my grief. This year with a son deployed my coping mechanism has turned to efforts to support the troops.

The Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church (RPC) played a big role this year in the outreach efforts. Members of the committee donated Christmas stockings filled with goodies to send to the battalion chaplain to be distributed to soldiers. We joined the efforts of Military Families Ministry in sending out the stockings. Military Families Ministry was co-founded by a friend and fellow contributor the blog Off the Base, Tracie Ciambotti. If you don’t have the address for a deployed service member, you can contact the nonprofit to find out how boxes can be sent. Their web site offers several ways in which groups or individuals can support deployed service members.

Christmas Stockings for soldiers from the Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church.

In addition to the stockings the Prayers and Squares ministry made and prayed over 100 prayer squares. The 6″ x 6″ squares of fabric have 5 strings or ribbons attached to them. When people say a prayer for the recipient they tie a knot. As I mentioned in a previous post the squares were prayed over at the veterans day luncheon and also by the middle school youth group at RPC. Each square was put into a ziplock bag with a card explaining what the knots symbolize. Half the prayer squares went to the deployed soldiers and the other half went to Fort Stewart to be given to family members of the soldiers deployed. Letters of thanks from the middle school youth went into the box with the prayer squares as well as hot chocolate packets, tea bags and snacks bars.

My daughter helped me get the boxes to the post office before Thanksgiving. Most were addressed to the chaplain, but one went to our soldier. In his we put warm hats, scarves and gloves along with his requested brands of special items. We also included some special items.

Prayer Squares made by the Prayers and Squares ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church.

For years our daughter would visit the Santa at the mall near our house. Now that she is 14 this tradition has changed a bit. Instead of dressing in her best Christmas dress she wore her “Fangirl” t-shirt, hoodie, and bracelets. I was also in the photo this year with my Hero On My Arm “Army Mom” messenger bag. A copy of the photo went in my letter to our soldier. Our daughter wrote a special letter to her brother and the reindeer Santa gave him went in the box too. I choked up a bit when we visited with Santa and I heard Chelle tell him, “Please keep my brother safe.” When Santa asked her what she wanted for herself she said, “That’s all I need.”

Chelle, Santa and Dorie go over their very short, but important, Wish List.

Opportunities to support military families are all around you. One of the nicest things you can do is to ask the family member how they need to be supported. For us, sending boxes to our soldier helps us feel like we have a big support network. We are collecting items this week to send 14 Christmas care packages to soldiers  with our soldier. After a quick Facebook post I heard from several people who would like to contribute. Letters, cards and pictures drawn by children are a terrific way to say thank you for your service. We hope to get the boxes in the mail by December 3. Please let me know if you would like to contribute to the mailing. We are looking for hot chocolate packets, instant coffee packets, baby wipes, beef jerky, dried fruit leather and other individually wrapped snacks.

While I am grateful for the many people who support us, I am still astounded at the people who have no idea we have thousands of soldiers deployed right now. I haven’t heard negative comments as much as ignorance of what our soldiers are doing. I am learning to use these comments to motivate me even more to be one more person getting the word out to support the troops.