Nothing says home to deployed military personnel like a care package. Filled with treats, necessities, and greetings, a care package can be a huge morale booster for those far from home – especially during the holidays. “Mail is one of the greatest morale boosters we can give our troops during the holiday,” said Postmaster General John E. Potter. “When they see that package or letter waiting for them on their bunk or hear their name at mail call, it brings them that much closer to family and the comforts of home.”

Before you package up your goodies, or for those who are considering adopting a service man or woman, there are some important guidelines to follow to ensure the smooth shipping and receiving of your package.

To begin, what do service personnel really need and want? A list, compiled by Operation Military Pride, is designed to assist package senders in their choices. They highlight not only the necessities, but also fun items that might be hard for deployed personnel to come by on their own. A partial list appears here:

-Chewing gum




-Hard candy

-Heating tablets

-Beef Jerkey

-Toothbrush/Dental Floss/Toothpaste



-Cup of Soup



-Cough Drops


-Toilet paper



-Phone Cards (a must!)

Far from home, special occasions such as birthdays and holidays are especially hard for deployed military. There are a myriad of items family and friends (and even strangers) can send in care packages that are great fun and help pass the time for the many men and women who are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and points around the world. Consider putting together a “fun” care package, full of silly and lighthearted items. Personalized calendars are a wonderful gift item that highlight happy times with family and friends and provide another reminder of your love for your service person. Other whimsical gifts might include a stress ball, birthday decorations, disposable cameras, electronic hand-held games, miniature basketballs, and balloons. For extra silly fun include a slinky, sidewalk chalk, squirt guns, and a child’s-size pail and shovel (for those deployed to areas like Iraq).

As important as it is to know what to send, it’s also equally important to know what not to send to deployed overseas military. Do not include pressurized items, such as shaving cream, which can burst enroute. Also keep chocolate out of care packages. Places such as Iraq can be well over 100 degrees – no match for that supersize Hershey bar Also, keep any obscene material, liquor, or large amounts of religious material out of your care package. In some countries, these items are considered illegal. Individual religious materials may be sent to your serviceperson only. When combining hygiene and food items, keep in mind that items such as soap or deodorant can leave their mark on food, even when the items have been sealed separately.

Additional guidelines for care packages are provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS), who suggests that those sending battery-powered items should remove and wrap the batteries separately. Items such as these have been known to get turned on during shipment. Also, place items that may leak in a seal-proof bag before placing in the care package.

When it comes time to prepare your shipping box, the USPS also makes these suggestions:

-Use a corrugated, brown box free of other markings

-Fill extra spaces with foam peanuts, bubble wrap and popcorn.

-Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all the seams with 2-inch-wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape. Do not use cord, string, or twine.

-Appropriate shipping supplies are available at local United States Post Offices

One military wife suggests placing stickers underneath the tape across the seam so the receiver can see if the box has been opened and re-taped. She also recommend that when it comes to filling out the Customs of Declaration and Dispatch Note at the Post Office, briefly list the contents and underestimate the value to discourage thieving.

As you prepare to send your care package, keep in mind that packages sent priority mail allows them to arrive at their final destination in the U.S. faster – after that it’s in the military’s hands. A priority package takes about 2 weeks to arrive where normal parcel post can take four weeks more. All packages and mail must be addressed to individual service members, as required by U.S. Department of Defense regulations.