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this site by Lauren Pomerantz, a mentor for Soldiers' Angels

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Things to Send

When you get your boxes, itís time to decide what to put in them. Basically it divides into three categories: food, hygiene, and entertainment. 

Food includes snacks of all types, candy, dried fruit, chips, dips, cans of soup with pull-tops and Easy Mac, packages of tuna or those little packets of tuna salad and crackers, etc. In the summer, soldiers need to keep hydrated. Send single serving tubes of Crystal Light, Gatorade, etc. They are perfect for a canteen. Also spice packets, like the kind you get from Del Taco or Taco Bell. Itís amazing how much better an MRE tastes when it doesnít taste like an MRE at all.

If you have a Soldier or a Marine, your priority should be things that are nutritionally denseóreal foodórather than candy.  In the field, the troops get two meals a day.  Sailors and Airmen may be on ships or remote bases and so have better access to meals.  They may also, however, be in the field with the same access to meals as the Army and Marine Corps.  If your soldier prefers cookies to beef jerky, he or she will let you know.

Aim for smaller sized units. For example, you can buy an entire package of Oreos, or you can buy a mini package that has six cookies in it. Itís easier to divvy up several mini packages of Oreos. Itís easier to shove a mini package of Oreos in your pocket before you go out on patrol. And itís easier to eat a mini package of Oreos before sand gets in the cookies.

Also, send your soldier some packs of individually wrapped candies, like peppermints or caramels.  Soldiers love to give these to the children they meet.

Chocolate

In the summer, it is over 100 degrees daily in Iraq and pretty warm in Afghanistan.  The chocolate season is from November through February, only.  This presents us with a problem.  Soldiers love chocolate.  (I firmly believe that the chocolate gene is very near the patriotism gene.) But you canít send candy bars.

However, some excellent chocolate things that do ship well include snack cakes, like Hostess and Little Debbie.  All those artificial sugars and transfats extend the shelf life. 

After your soldier knows you, you can send homemade goodies.  Homemade brownies work well, generally, but not cakes, which tend to mold during transit.  Try freezing the brownies, wrapping in freezer paper and aluminum foil, and taking right to the post office.  They will take several days to thaw completely.  Chocolate chip cookies provide holdable surfaces, and actually benefit from the heat.  The gooey chips taste like they came right from the oven.

Consider sending a bottle or can of Hersheyís syrup (in a zipper bag) and about 20 spoons.  It only has to be refrigerated if there is any left.  There wonít be.

M&Mís were actually designed for desert combat.  For best bets, send the minis that come in tubes.  If they do melt, your soldier can just pour them into his mouth.

Baking

You can send home baked goods, with certain caveats.  Butter, margarine, nuts, and peanut butter contain fats that will go rancid in the heat.  Brown sugar, corn sugar, honey, and molasses cause foods to get moldy.

has some tried and tested recipes available on their site.

Hygiene includes disposable razors, toothbrushes and paste, sample sizes of shampoo and soap, dental floss, hand lotion, lip balm, and toilet paper (remove the tube for easier packing, or fill the tube with breakable items, like small bottles of Tabasco, sealed in a zip-lock bag).  It also includes over-the-counter medicines like Advil or Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, Tums, Band-Aids, athleteís foot cream, sun tan lotion (45 SPF or higher), bug spray, hand lotion, Halls, Kleenex, etc.  I'm also told (by a former Marine) that paint brushes (like the kind you use to paint rooms) are excellent for cleaning rifles, but you might have to tell your recipient what it's for. 

Include lots of hand sanitizing liquid and baby wipes.  Your soldier does not have the opportunity to bathe every day.  This stuff helps keep things sanitary.

Send toothbrushes regularly.  Besides the fact that they get gritty, the old ones are great for polishing boots.

Entertainment includes AA-batteries, decks of cards, paper, envelopes, pens, puzzle magazines, travel games, books, magazines, maybe DVDís or CDís or PlayStation or XBox games.  For those last things, wait until you "know" your soldier and then ask.  You don't want to send Xbox games to a unit that only has a PlayStation. 

Soldiers also enjoy getting phone cards.  Phone cards need to be AT&T, the only service that works from the combat zones.  You can purchase cards online at http://www.angelsstore.org.  You can also purchase them from places like Costco and Samís Club and the Post Office.  Remember that it costs several ďminutesĒ for each minute of talk time from overseas to the US.  A 20 minute phone card will barely get a soldier a 2 minute call home.

You might also send weather appropriate items of apparel such as mittens and socks in the winter, tan or desert-camo bandanas and shower shoes (flip-flops/zuris) in the summer.  In the spring, soldiers like sand scarves to keep the sand off their faces.  These should be in tan or military camo colours and made of t-shirt material.  You can purchase or make Cool Scarves, which contain absorbent chemicals that hold cool water and can help keep a soldier's neck cool for up to twelve hours.

As a special treat, send your soldier a pillow and two plain white pillowcases.  If you squish the air out of the pillow, it becomes quite flat.  

Things Not to Send

Do not send alcohol or foods containing alcohol.  Do not send things in spray cans such as shaving cream (it comes in tubes, too).  They tend to explode in the heat.  Do not send certain types of magazines.  Magazines should not bare the bathing suit bottom area and for women should not display the nipples.  There are some magazines that feature racy photos, like FHM.  These magazines are OK, if you personally do not feel uncomfortable sending them.  Personally, I send Time, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated.

Things You May Send If Requested

Because we are in a Muslim country, and do not wish to offend our hosts, we do not send religious materials other than for personal use.  If your soldier requests a Bible, you may send a Bible.  Do not send thirty Bibles for your soldier to distribute to his unit unless he requests this.

I have heard mixed things about pork.  In the Green Zone, I am told they sometimes serve pork chops.  On the other hand, not everyone is in the Green Zone.  If your soldier asks for some pork product, you may send it.  Otherwise, avoid it.

Download this file in an Acrobat format

Hygiene Items

  1. toilet Paper - take out the cardboard and flatten

  2. sun block (at least SPF-15) and insect repellant, aloe vera gel

  3. liquid hand sanitizer

  4. baby wipes and refills, Avon Skin So Soft

  5. toothbrushes and toothpaste

  6. dental floss and mouth wash

  7. disposable razors and shave gel or foam

  8. Keri lotion (not oil based, for faces)

  9. Chap Stick or Carmex, talcum powder

  10. Q-tips, face cloths, big fluffy towels (for the ladies), facial cleansing pads

  11. nail clippers, files, nail polish (neutral colors)

  12. deodorant, shampoo, bar soap, body wash (liquid)

  13. feminine hygiene products

  14. hair bands, clips, hair spray, hair gel, brushes and combs

  15. eye drops

  16. facial tissues, saline nasal spray, Dayquil, Nyquil, Tussin

  17. small mirrors

  18. contact lens cleaner

  19. after shave lotion

  20. light weight tan or Army green colored cloth 10" X 36" (also called a "sand scarf")

  21. Cool Scarf

Food

  1. tea bags

  2. dried fruit

  3. beef or turkey jerky

  4. Slim Jims (they go fast)

  5. powdered Gatorade, Crystal Light in 1 qt tubes

  6. cookies in package or Ziploc bag

  7. crackers, easy cheese

  8. Chex Mix

  9. small Pringles

  10. gum, hard candy, Tic Tacs, breath mints

  11. trail mix

  12. granola bars

  13. tuna

  14. spices, condiments

  15. summer sausage

  16. power bars

  17. Kool Aid (with sugar)

  18. dry cereal (individual boxes)

  19. Little Debby snack cakes

  20. Ragu Express

  21. powdered drinks, juice boxes

  22. sunflower seeds

  23. instant soups

  24. instant oatmeal & grits

  25. microwave popcorn
    (if your soldier has access to a microwave)

  26. Kraft Easy Mac

Entertainment

  1. magazines, jokes & comics

  2. crosswords, word search puzzles, pens & pencils

  3. paperback books or novels

  4. local newspapers, post cards from your home town

  5. small flash lights or book lights

  6. disposable cameras

  7. Frisbees, Nerf footballs, basketballs, electronic hand held games, CDs & players, hackie sacks, Yo-Yo's, Kids drawings, squirt guns to keep dust down,

  8. envelopes and writing paper

  9. boxes of assorted greeting cards

  10. batteries, especially AA and AAA

  11. AT&T phone cards

Miscellaneous

  1. plain black sunglasses

  2. socks (plain black or white), t-shirts, underwear (various sizes)

  3. clorox wipes

  4. Zip lock bags

  5. powdered laundry detergent, dryer sheets

  6. cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars (if requested)