Maybe this is your first care package and you want to make sure you get it right, or maybe you want to surprise your service member with a package and don’t know what to get. We interviewed five different service members to see what they really liked to give you some ideas!
Of course, your service member is always going to know himself or herself the best, so be sure to ask him or her what he or she would like in a care package! But if you want to surprise your service member or want some basic ideas, the answers of these five service members will give you a good start.
Allen B., Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps
How often would you like to receive care packages? Once a month
What do people often include in care packages but you wish they wouldn’t? Toiletries
Do you like getting cards & letters in care packages? Yes, they are always nice to receive.
Shane M., Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy
What is your favorite item to receive in a care package?
- Coffee (different types, as well as decaf), filters, K-cups
- Healthy snacks (we love how America supports us, but I believe that the American public may give 98% of the forward forces diabetes with all of the sweets they send)
- Words of encouragement
How often would you like to receive care packages?
- If I would have to guess, I would say one a month….at the end of the day, it is the sentimental part of getting a package that counts, and you can never get enough of that. When someone in the shop gets a package, we all get excited when it gets opened. It’s kind of cute….
- Also, having packages delivered to specific individuals is nice…most care packages just come to [the base generally].... We actually have a HUGE overabundance of packages…as in we fill up shipping containers with them and end up giving a lot of it to the Afghans. There is not a lack of American support. With that said, again, the sentiment of getting your own package is nice.
What do people often include in care packages but you wish they wouldn’t? JUST NO MORE CANDY!!!!! hahaha
Do you like getting cards & letters in care packages? I person ally love getting cards and letters, and I think everyone would agree with me. Kids draw us really funny pictures (like a big bomb with ‘USA’ on it, striking terrorists!) that we hang up in our shop. The old people that write us are the best. They will write for like 5 pag es about the land they live on, their church, their kids, their grandkids, the weather, and their prior experiences with war. It is quite touching. I’ve written back to an 85 year old couple from Michigan. Watching CNN, you kind of get the feeling that America has become this horrible divisive country…. but then you receive these really heartfelt letters from strangers, and it makes you realize you do defend the best country in the world. I tear up just thinking about that one. So an absolute yes to letters and cards.
Gil P., Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) in the United States Air Force
What is your favorite item to receive in a care package? I always liked getting candy. Sometimes the best thing was just to get a package that you were able to open. You almost never knew what was in them so it was always a surprise.
How often would you like to receive care packages? About every other week because it would usually last about that long before everything ran out.
What do people often include in care packages but you wish they wouldn’t? Baked goods travel poorly. I once received a package that someone had sent chocolate chip cookies that got moldy because it took a little too long to get there. Then all you could think about was chocolate chip cookies.
Do you like getting cards & letters in care packages? I enjoyed letters from kids thanking us for our service and drawings of what they thought we were doing. It was fun to write thank you notes back to them with stories of what we were really doing.
The back-story on Gil’s favorite care package:
This is the best care package I ever received. I was in Afghanistan, and my friends, Jim and Stephen, from Kansas City asked what I need ed and wanted for a care package. They had a fundraising dinner and wine corking called “Toast to the Troops” at Stephen’s restaurant and raised the money to pay for the items. They bought all the items and filled 38 USPS boxes. On the way to mail them, they bumped into a friend who owned a candy store and said he’d like to help—so instead of packing peanuts, they used tootsie rolls! I was in my office in Kabul and someone came in and said: “Hey Sir, you have a whole bunch of mail in the mailroom.” We brought up t he 38 boxes and started opening them. Everyone had a great time opening packages because every one was different and had something useful in it. They had cleaning stuff like hand sanitizer, shampoo, wipes, soap, toothpaste, Qtips, moisturizer (I told them how dusty, dirty, and dry it was); writing paper, pens, crayons, pencils, and markers for the security guys to take to the kids outside the fence (they filled their pockets before going on patrol and the kids loved them); magazines; packaged food snacks, hot chocolate packs; guitar strings (I told them people seemed to like those), and of course, a ton of candy. We put everything up on shelves and people would just stop by and grab what they needed. The supply lasted for weeks.
Kevin S., Major (ret.) in the United States Army
What is your favorite item to receive in a care package? Beef jerky and favorite snacks and magazines
How often would you like to receive care packages? Two times a month
What do people often include in care packages but you wish they wouldn’t? Baby wipes, toiletry items
Do you like getting cards & letters in care packages? Yes, I love receiving cards and other correspondence in the packages.
Dan W., served six years in the United States Navy
As a submariner, I only received one care package for my entire six-year enlistment. I left as an E-5 (Petty Officer, 2 nd Class).
What is your favorite item to receive in a care package? A personal DVD or letter that allowed me to feel and understand how my family was and what they were doing.
How often would you like to receive care packages? It would be great to get a package every 3 or 4 weeks.
What do people often include in care packages but you wish they wouldn’t? Any item that would spoil or liquids that broke or leaked.
Do you like getting cards & letters in care packages? Yes, absolutely.
Pro tip: You'll notice that several of these service members mentioned beef jerky. Check out our product review article on Country Archer Beef Jerky to see if it might be a good fit for your service member!
Hopefully these answers from these five service members have given you a good start on what to include in a care package! Leave a comment below about what your service member really likes in a care package!