Friday, August 5, 2011

What should I send my soldier or marine in Iraq / Afghanistan?

I am often asked for gift ideas of what to send to troops that are deployed overseas. During my military service, I spent 14 months abroad. While that is not much overseas time compared to today's deployment lengths, it seemed like an unending voyage to me. Luckily, I received packages every other week and this helped make life easier while being overseas.

I spent many months on a Navy aircraft carrier as part of my overseas service and I soon learned that mail call was the greatest part of a working week. Our company of Marines would gather in the berthing area and the names on the mail would be read off for the Marine to collect. Packages large and small would arrive in the mail. My wife sent me ramen noodle meals, freeze-dried food, candy, and other delicious treats. I could trade these items for valuable things if I did not need them. There is a barter like economy while being deployed or on ship and we soon found the value in unusual things.

So I have compiled a list of items that will help your loved one when deployed.

1. Hygene gear Send anything you want in this category to help the troop keep clean and comfortable.
2. Tobacco The value of tobacco is imense to the armed forces. Chewing tobacco was especially valuable because it would be scarce at sometimes. Chewing tobacco will keep a soldier or Marine comfortably awake if they are up all night on a patrol.
3. Clothing. Socks, tshirts, comfortable workout clothing and athletic shoes. Give the deployed serviceman or servicewoman something comfortable to change into when they are not in uniform.
4. Phonecards. A phonecard is an excellent gift idea. They are easy to find while overseas but it may help with the expensive phone bills.
5. Magazines, books, newspapers,computer games. It can be hard to find your favorite magazine while overseas. Send any reading materials you can to entertain the troop during long periods of downtime. I had a layover in Afghanistan once and managed to read "Call of the Wild," by Jack London. Reading that piece of literature made me feel close to home for some reason.
6. Food items. Send a favorite snack. Beef Jerky and sunflower seeds would be my first pick. Try not to send chocolate as it melts in that hot desert sun too easily. Ramen noodles were nice to have when I was on ship.

That is a well rounded out list of popular things to a troop stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. These items would greatly help anyone who is serving far away from home. Do remember it could take about month to receive mail while serving overseas so plan holiday packages accordingly.

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