I got a letter today from a soldier in Bagdad. She’s bored. She ranted about the perpetuality of her job, and the things she “always” does, and my first instinct is to send her another package. She suggested we send her microwavable add-hot-water foods, and movies. If it wasn’t for the cost of shipping the last package, I’d jump on it instantly. I’m definitely feeling the financial pressure of having a loved one in Iraq, and she wasn’t even a breadwinner for my family.
I send packages with snacks, packages with games, packages with CDs and skin care items. I send letters and drawings from the kids. And I could spend a fortune doing this. I feel I have a responsibility to my soldier, to keep her happy, to alleviate her boredom. Whether or not you or I agree with why our soldiers are there, we should agree that we want our soldiers in top condition. I started accumulating some ideas, and here’s a starter list:
Shipping: Though you must fill out a customs form, shipping to bases overseas is domestic rate, so flat rate boxes are the best bet. For packing material, I’ve noticed 100 calorie packs work pretty well, since they’re usually air cushiony.
Snacks: See above about 100 calorie packs, and I found some at Sam’s club for a pretty good deal. If I bake cookies with the kids, I’ll put half-a-dozen in the next package. Maybe some granola bars.
Games: I started sending her some old new games I had lying around un-played. We didn’t like our double-fifteen set, it just made games take too long. As for cards, we had a few rpg and a couple poker decks lying around; one is all that’s necessary when we play when we do get around to playing. I had a few word game and puzzle books I had bought when I was pregnant years ago and never finished.
Media: TV series were her request, and she can sign up for Blockbuster Online, but there have to be other options. I can scrounge the $5 bins, freecycle, or go to pawn shop dollar sales, yet I’m not having any remarkable brainstorms on that front. I had a couple of duplicate CDs, replacements for disks I later found, and a couple sample DVDs, like from HBO with some promotional pilot episodes, but that’s all I came up with.
Reading: Your old subscription magazines. State related, travel related, fashion related; things about home and everyday, non-deployed life. Not that they aren’t proud and happy to be deployed, it’s just they live the same day every day. And books. I have an affinity for children’s books, so I’m thinking nostalgia. I could collect the Sunday comics, some funny stories from off the internet.
Personal Care: I have lots of hotel samples from the past few years, and the small size means she’s onto the next scent quickly. A nice break in routine, especially for someone with the dry dustiness of the desert. I can also transfer lotions to sample bottles, and again, in small containers so she has a surprising rotation. I also imagine it’s like being in a hotel, which is somewhere she definitely is not going anytime soon, and somewhere nearly synonymous with vacation.
Letters: It’s easy to be frugal with letters. All they have to do is be written. So, I write about everything. I include sketches and photos and poems and stories, quotes from what is going on around me and maybe some lyrics from a song. A puzzle, a quiz, a riddle. Something to keep her looking forward to the next one. I like postcards for my letters; I can cut a greeting card in half (3 1/2 x 5 to 4×6 is the size for a 26 cent stamp) and send it off. That’s kind of a puzzle too, because she can look forward to the other half of the card.
Letters back: Send stickers, the rest of your package of holiday or thank you cards, maybe some interesting papers and stationery. Send envelopes. But don’t send stamps: our soldiers get free postage.
Kid’s Art: Well, my kids are little drawing factories, so I just save a few and drop them in. I don’t ask them to make anything on any particular day, I just collect them and include them.
Ask! When I did, she asked for a big fluffy pillow. I’d have never thought of a pillow. Also, I gave my soldier’s address to the congregation of my grandmother’s church. American’s are a community, and everyone helps. It’s nice to remember I’m not alone.
And after two or three afternoons of brainstorming, I feel much more comfortable about my every-ten-day package I send to her, and I discover I can indeed go out an buy some add-hot-water meals without having my devotion to her become a burden on my budget. Everything doesn’t have to be new and shiny, it just has to remind her of home, and remind her that we think of her every day.
Now, if I could only figure out how to send her a hot steak dinner.
Image courtesy of Jayel Aheram