What does it take to feed a marine?

Marines eat a lot. Partly because they’re busy running from terrorists and carrying big guns. Plus they have to carry everything they own in a duffle bag, which is a lot of weight. They’re also usually nineteen or twenty years old, and those guys eat a lot even sitting on their butts playing video games. I think it’s sad that we send such young people into the most dangerous places in the world, yet they can’t rent a hotel room (here in Missouri, anyway) and they can’t drink. You can get shot all to hell but you can’t rent a room or have a beer. How crazy is that?

My daughter Rachel’s boyfriend, Alex (my future son-in-law, I hope) just left for Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. Rachel actually sent him his first care package the day before he left. It takes about three weeks to get a package to Afghanistan, so he still got there first. It was a big box, and he tore through it in a couple of days. I wasn’t really surprised. Have you ever seen an MRE? I can’t believe we drop those things to starving people during disasters. Do we want them to hate the U.S.?

So Rachel has become a hoarder. If you’ve ever seen the show “Extreme Couponing,” you’ve seen stockpiles before. Here’s Rachel’s:

So, here’s the deal. The soldiers need goodies. I don’t care if you’re for the war or against it, the soldiers are there now. I personally want Alex home, but that ain’t my decision. So in the meantime, I’m going to send a lot of goodies. But some of those kids don’t have anyone to send them stuff. How sad is that?

We have Christmas coming up. It would be excellent if every family out there sent a care package to a random soldier this holiday season. Here’s some tips:

  • If you send your care package to a charity, address it “Attn: Any (male or female) Soldier.” If you want to send it yourself, you can get addresses for actual military members at http://anysoldier.com/wheretosend (see below for more on this charity).
  • Get a priority “if it fits, it ships” box from the post office. You can pack a lot of stuff in there, and it doesn’t matter how much it weighs. The box itself is free. Using an old box in your basement actually costs a lot more. A large priority box costs us about $11 or $12 in shipping; it would be about $27 if we didn’t use the post office’s priority box because of the weight. Plus SHIPPING FOR THE LARGE BOX SENT TO SOLDIERS IS TWO DOLLARS OFF!
  • One site I looked at recommended sending the small boxes instead, 10 pounds or less, so shipping would be even less.
  • No UPS. You have to drop it off at the post office and go through the line. Sucks to be you. Merry Christmas. Do it for the boys and girls.
  • Double-bag any item that has liquid (like soup or toilettries) or has a strong odor (like laundry soap) so their goodies don’t taste or smell like shampoo. We ship food and non-food, odorous stuff in separate packages so the food doesn’t taste like shampoo.
  • Don’t send baked goods! I know, you want to send your grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, but it takes three weeks to get anything to a soldier. That stuff is going to be stale and moldy. Plus, they can’t eat it unless it’s packaged for the same reason you can’t give that stuff to kids at Halloween. Don’t worry, after an MRE, an Oreo will be heaven.

Here’s a list of stuff the kids overseas need for hygiene. I was so surprised THE MILITARY DOESN’T PROVIDE THIS STUFF. (Pack in separate zipper freezer bags or double-bagged away from food):

  • Foot POWDER spray (Dollar Store — cheap!)
  • Anti-fungal creams
  • Wet wipes (sometimes this is their shower)
  • Eye drops — tears type (Dollar Store!)
  • Laundry soap (travel package size or Purex laundry detergent sheets) and dryer sheets (unscented!)
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Disposable cameras
  • Hand and foot warmer packages (like Hot Hands; it’s 46 degrees in Afghanistan as I type this. The Dollar Store has them cheap!)
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste (“bottles,” not tubes), floss sticks
  • Small bottles of over-the-counter medications
  • Travel liquid soap (no bars) or hand sanitizer
  • Disposable razors and shaving cream (2 to 5 oz), or batteries for electric shavers
  • Shampoo (travel sizes, 1 to 3 oz)
  • Lotion, cleanser, and conditioner (travel sizes, 1 to 5 oz) FOR THE LADIES ESPECIALLY
  • Stick deodorant
  • Tampons, pads (didn’t think of that one)
  • Travel size tissue packs
  • Bandaids
  • Books, magazines, comic books, word searches, crosswords, Suduko, cards, Dominos, dice, handheld electronic games, hacky sac (think small — has to fit in a duffle bag)
  • Zipper plastic bags
  • 72″ bootlaces (brown or tan)
  • Envelopes, notepads, pens, small journals (no stamps necessary — letters come home for free)
  • AA and AAA batteries

Tasty foods for military folk:

  • NO PORK PRODUCTS! (they’re in a Muslim nation)
  • Ramen noodles
  • Dried fruit
  • Jerky, meat sticks
  • Individual tuna packages
  • Pop tarts
  • Individual oatmeal packs
  • Granola bars
  • Single-serving Coolaid, Gatorade, hot chocolate, coffee, iced tea
  • Chips in cans only, potato sticks
  • Snack packs of cookies, crackers, Chex mix, Rice Krispie treats (try to pack in something hard, like a chip can)
  • Individual packages of nuts and cheese or peanut butter crackers (DOLLAR STORE!)
  • Small cans of spaghetti, lasagna, soup, etc., IN RING-TOP CANS
  • Cereal bars
  • Non-melting hard candies and gum

If you’d rather, you can also donate money online to care package charities. Or you can send a box to them and they will send it on. Here’s a few:

A great site is www.AnySoldier.com (or AnyMarine, AnySailor, AnyAirman, AnyCoastGuard). You actually pick the name of a solder, marine, etc. from the list and send your package to that volunteer. He will then share everything in that package with all the guys who aren’t getting anything from home. He will even have a list of things under his name that he’s noticed his guys really need, like socks or boxers. You can send a letter to the whole group thanking them for their service.

Or when you go to your bank, bring some items and toss them in the “For the soldiers” bin — a lot of places have them now. Packing and shipping a box is a lot of work, but anyone can make the effort to buy a few things each week at the grocery just for a soldier and drop it off when they do their banking. Let someone else do the work. And then imagine some nineteen-year-old kid, alone and scared in another country away from his family, eating those Pringles you provided and feeling like someone cared. That feeling alone is worth the few bucks it will cost you.

About alisaacarter

I am a writer of young adult novels, wife, mom of three, lover of animals, former magazine editor, reader of anything paranormal, and coffee fanatic.
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