Well it is again that time of year when we at least start thinking of shopping for the Christmas and Chanukah holidays. Me, I already started my holiday shopping. I got a present for each of the men in my family in my generation and included the next generation too. I’ll not say what it is because someone of them may read this and the surprise would be ruined. Usually, I do not start my Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving but I saw something for them and knew it was limited in numbers and might be harder to get later so I ordered 5 of them. Thing was, I received them and sent them back for an exchange; the ones I got were not in good condition and they have promised to send ones in excellent condition next time. After all since they are new items they should be in excellent condition!
That’s enough on what I bought already, let me talk start writing about what I set out to pen herein. One of the reasons I already started to shop for Christmas was mentioned above, a limited item on that was available; another reason though is that I started shopping for the Soldiers’ Care Packages I will be sending out over for this holiday season. That just got me in the general shopping mood and being that it is already mid- November I am also in the Christmas shopping mood. Now I have the same problem I have every year when shopping for my family, and I also have the same problem I have had over the past couple of years when shopping for our soldiers who are in Harm’s way. As for my family I have an idea of some nicer gifts that will go to my wife, daughter and son but I need to pick out some stocking stuffers too. I prefer to get them something nice for the stocking along with some goofy and less expensive items too. As for the soldiers, I plan to get them things they can all share, but I also will try as I did in years past to get a gift for each soldier in the unit. Like the gifts I mentioned above, that I have already bought for the men in my family, these will probably be something the soldiers can use and will be pretty happy to receive even if each one of them receives the same exact thing.
This year, as over the last two, I have been assigned a soldier by way of Soldiers’ Angels. It is my job to write to him, to email him, to send him care packages. I just sent out such a package with a long letter. One of the things I asked in the letter was what he could use, another was how many guys/gals are in his unit. I would have emailed him to ask but he gave no email address just his mailing address in Afghanistan - on the front lines near the Pakistani border. Things I sent in this package were wool socks, granola type bars, candy, chewing gum, a wood carving book, a wood carving set, wood blocks for carving, mixed nuts, and some other things that I cannot think of right now. I am hopeful to receive a reply from him that tells me what he and his buddies can use - but even if he never writes back to me, I know what to send. I’ll just send things I have sent to the other couple of guys in the past who were assigned to me by Soldiers’ Angels and to the one other soldier I sent stuff to on my own (someone I never met but whom I had contact with on the Internet before he was deployed).
So what are good things to send to our guys and gals in the military who are on foreign soil. Just about anything in general but there are certain restrictions. First let me start with the restrictions – the do not sends:
Do not send:
Pornography, not even mild pornography
Pork products (to soldiers in Islamic countries)
Firearms, ammunition, explosives or fireworks
Propaganda (such as no anti-Muslim or anti-military books)
Liquids or food stuffs in glass
Anything that freezing will ruin
Anything that heat will ruin (though it should be getting cold over there soon enough)
Mass mailings of religious items
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, what can you send:
Clothing like hats, gloves, socks (I just sent a 3 pack of very thick wool socks to my soldier), and so on
Batteries (various sizes but think of batteries for things like portable DVD players and Walkmen – so AAA, AA sizes mostly)
Music CDs and Video DVDs (be careful it is nothing that might be considered even mildly pornographic)
Toiletries such as baby wipes, deodorant, scented soap, toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes, safety razors, and so on.
Earplugs (the foam variety) in multiple packs (helps them sleep or helps them retain hearing if in an artillery unit)
Books and magazines and newspapers
Small notebooks and pens, or letter writing kits (fancy paper with envelopes)
Candy (try to send stuff that will not melt, send chocolate in late fall and winter)
Chewing gum, bubble gum
Nuts of all varieties (I usually send mixed nuts)
Crackers, and cookies (they may get squashed but you can bet they will get eaten)
Spices for cooking (The first year it was requested I send an electric Crock Pot and spices - and I did just that with your generous help.)
Drink Mixes like Crystal Light
Tea bags and Ground Coffee
Ziploc type freezer bags
Small toys like Matchbox Cars, Slinky, marbles, (stuff they can either enjoy themselves or give to local kids)
Small games, decks of playing cards (often available in 6 or 8 packs), poker chips
Small hobby kits (like the wood carving kit I sent this time round)
A kite flying kit
Small art kits, like pastels or charcoal and drawing paper
Dry graphite lubricant
Eyeglass repair kits
A baseball and glove
Small Air pump with pin for football
Small breakdown fishing rod kits (they make em pretty small nowadays and you can bet if there is a river, stream, pond or lake there will be fishing getting done even if there are no fish in it – that is just the optimism that comes with being a fisherman)
Pictures of loved ones (if you are a family member or loved one of the soldier)
Letters or cards from anyone who wants to include a note for a soldier (unless you bought it in the store, do not accept any sealed packages or envelope from anyone for inclusion in the care package – make sure you can review the contents)
Some of the things I have included in the previous care packages that I later found out were really well received by the soldiers were sort of the stocking stuffer variety of gifts – with at least one of them for each soldier in the unit. The first year each soldier got at least one flashlight and one pocket folding knife. Last year I do not think I had enough knives and lights to give one to each but it worked out that each soldier in the unit should have received either a knife or light. I have also sent Tobacco products (I have sent cigars and smokeless tobacco – they were both a big hit). I make a point to send enough cigars so each person in the unit can get one.
As for the flashlights please allow me to give an unabashed plug for a particular company. When I first thought of sending flashlights, two years ago, I contacted several flashlight makers and suppliers. I was looking at picking up small hand held lights of the high intensity type. Some agreed to sell them to me at a pretty good discount. Then one of the manufacturers came up with a deal that still chokes me up today. Streamlight of Pennsylvania offered me a deal I could not believe nor one that I could turn down. Angel D., one of their reps, sent me a light and batteries (including batteries in each light and extra batteries for each light) for each person in my soldier’s unit. I think it was something like 10 or 12 flashlights and about 36 batteries. Those lights retailed for well above $55, some places had em as high as $65 – and that is apiece! Then last year, I contacted Streamlight again, but insisting that they offer me a discount so I could buy some lights from them that time. They again agreed to send 12 lights, once again Angel D proving she lived up to her name. I was almost to ashamed to ask her how much she could sell me a few more for because the soldier’s unit last year was bigger than the one the year before. The next thing I knew, I received 16 Streamlights in the mail – all free.
Folks, these were all pretty high end flashlights. Again, they retailed for about $60 apiece and that second time they sent 16 of them. The company that did this is an American company in PA. It is an American made product they sent. It was done for a stranger to send to strangers and all based upon patriotism, good will and trust. They were not going to get an rave reviews in the news for this. For all they knew I was reselling the things. What they did get was my thanks and I conveyed the thanks of the soldiers to them. (What Angel D did not get was a gift I meant to send to her. That is me and my muddled middle aged memory again. I will send her a little something soon – she deserves it.)
What I could give back to Streamlight, I did. I gave recommendations for their products on my blog just as I am doing here. I am not doing this for payment or as repayment, I am doing it out of courtesy to people who really did a nice thing for our soldiers in a war zone. So here goes my spiel.
Folks – read this and read it well – if you are even thinking of buying a flashlight to send to someone you know in the military, or maybe thinking of buying one for family or a friend to put in their stocking this year, or as a gift for a coworker in a fire or police department – or even thinking of getting yourself a high quality light – PLEASE CONSIDER STREAMLIGHT. Heck I bought one for myself last year (lost it already). I also had one from work, lost that one too. I can attest to their usefulness and quality though based on my limited experience with them and based upon what I have heard fro m others. I think they make a great product. Besides that, as I said above, they are great people who have done some wonderful things for our troops; my bet is I am not the only one to whom they sent lights for the troops for free.
Okay, that is it for the unabashed plug.
Back to the idea behind this rant. All the things I mentioned above, that the soldiers can share like food or books or music CDs or cigars, are great items to send to the troops. Other small items, stocking stuffer sort of items, like knives, flashlights, pocket knife sharpeners, and other small durable items that a soldier can easily carry and then keep for the rest of his or her life are greatly appreciated by them. Other durable (and fairly durable) things, that would be for one person alone, are also greatly appreciated. These would include: sunglasses, religious or secular medals (never in bulk), a baseball glove, compasses, gloves, wristwatches, some form of not too expensive jewelry, nail clippers (imagine treasuring a nail clipper but I’d bet they do), a small hardcover book you dedicate to a particular soldier, CD players, and such are all great items to send. (Remember send expensive packages or items insured.)
Now, if you think about it, an awful lot of what I mentioned above would make good stocking stuffers as well as great inclusions for care packages. Of course, I could go on and on and on but I’ll finish up soon. In closing, let me just say - remember, way up above, how I started this piece. Something about 5 things I ordered for the other men in my family for Christmas. I will not tell you what I ordered them but will say they would be great stocking stuffers and yes they are included in the above list.
By the way, if you would like to donate to this years efforts at putting care packages together for my assigned soldier and his unit, you can click on the donation link on the right side of my blog page. Anything will be appreciated and everything I receive after PayPal takes their cut goes directly toward the purchase of items going into the care packages. I will be paying all shipping costs out of my own pocket as in the past.
All the best,
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