The holidays are here, which means it’s time to start shopping for everyone on your list. If your loved one is deployed overseas this season, anxiety about buying the perfect gift is likely compounded by questions about what items active service members need and if there are restrictions on what you’re allowed to ship. While your loved one will undoubtedly appreciate anything you send, some gifts are particularly useful and will make spending the holidays away from home a bit more enjoyable. Here’s a look at what service members are really hoping for in their care packages this season.
Receiving a holiday greeting via email or letter is always appreciated. But if you’re looking for a unique way to include a special message in your service member’s care package, consider sending a personalized, functional item that they’ll use every day. Our Bullets2Bandages bottle openers are made from upcycled military ammunition that can be engraved with a name, anniversary, or another meaningful message. We also have keychain bottle openers that come with a customizable wood dog tag. You can order these items individually or buy them in bulk for a cost‐effective solution to sending care packages to entire troops.
Snacks and food items
Servicemen and women will appreciate anything that can be mixed with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), such as individual packets of hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish. For a more personalized gift, send your loved one a bottle of barbeque sauce from his or her favorite restaurant back home. Powdered drink mixes, like hot cocoa, instant coffee, lemonade, and iced tea, are also great gifts. Send energy bars, beef jerky, and small, hard containers of chips and pretzels.
Avoid shipping chocolate, which can melt, as well as snacks packaged in bags, which may burst under high pressure. All items must be non‐perishable, and be sure to package food items separately from soaps and toiletries to avoid a mess.
Hygiene and clothing
Our troops spend a lot of time on their feet and depend on clean socks to stay comfortable and dry. Your service member will appreciate a care package with
socks made of 100 percent cotton (avoid those made from a cotton blend), moleskin, athlete’s foot ointment, and medicated foot powder. Small, travel‐sized containers of body wash, shampoo, shaving lotion, and toothpaste will also be well received. Send lip balm, lens cleaning cloths, eye drops, lotion, aspirin, cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, and disposable razors. Avoid sending anything in an aerosol can.
Entertainment and activities
Deployed service members have a lot of downtime, which means they need to find their own ways to have fun. Consider sending video games, board games, or playing cards. Paperback books, magazines, and crossword puzzles are also nice items to stuff in a care package. An e‐reader loaded with a few new books or a subscription to a newspaper or magazine is a great holiday gift. Your loved one would be thrilled to receive an iPod or iPad pre‐loaded with music and movies. Batteries are in high demand, especially AA and D, but keep in mind you cannot ship lithium-ion batteries. If you send an item that requires batteries, be sure to remove them before shipping so the device doesn’t accidentally turn on in transit.
It’s impossible not to get homesick overseas, especially during the holidays. Be sure to include a reminder from home in your care package, such as a personal handwritten note, your children’s drawings, or a USB flash drive loaded with pictures and video of friends and family back home. If you have any special holiday traditions, think of a way to include your loved one from afar. These sentimental touches are comforting and will provide your service member a much‐needed morale boost from around the world.
Make your gifts count twice this holiday season
There are so many ways to show our deployed troops how much you care this holiday season. Whether you’re shopping for a loved one or sending care packages to troops for charity, our personalized gifts are a great way to make their holiday season a little bit brighter. If you’re looking for a way to give back to retired service members, we have you covered there, too. At Bullets2Bandages, we donate at least 15% of our profits to veteran charities every year.
Visit our online store or call us at (858) 952‐6719 to explore your holiday gift options.
Posted by Kevin Kelly
Marine Veteran & Content editor and creator.