If you aren’t aware (and if you aren’t, you’re a communist), 4th of July is right around the corner. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started planning your trip to blackout lane. It is important, however, that we bear in mind the reason we are able to celebrate our independence, which is, of course, the men and women in our Armed Forces who are putting their lives on the line every day in foreign and hostile areas of operation. Unfortunately, these men and women who deserve to celebrate the 4th of July the most have little to no opportunity to do so. A lot of us have brothers and sisters who are currently deployed overseas. With that in mind, I got together with my roommate, SGT W, who is Active Duty military and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and we came up with the guide to a perfect care package.
Over there you really don’t have access to the food you are accustomed to having at your fingertips back home. You can’t go down to the local store and develop some form of mental paralysis due to all of the food choices that are in front of you. Some days you just wake up craving something that’s very specific and very far away, and then you realize, “Well shit, I won’t be tasting that for a long ass time.” And then you dig into a wonderful MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat). If you haven’t had the pleasure of living off those for weeks on end, you don’t know what you’re missing.
When I first sent a care package to SGT W, I made sure to include all his favorite snacks. Mainly his favorite beef jerky (Robertson’s Beef Jerky to be exact), along with the hard candies, sunflower seeds, gushers (apparently that shit is gold over there), etc. You know what your buddy likes to snack on, so I’ll leave most of the decision making up to you. If you need recommendations, don’t hesitate to ask them what they want. Let’s just make sure our American soldiers are eating American snacks and not some weird camel jerky or whatever it is they sell over there.
My buddies loaded up a 1.5 terabyte drive with enough movies and TV series to last me for years. It was and still is one of my most prized possessions. The novelty of watching camels fuck wears off after the first few times, or weeks, depending on what you’re into. So having a loaded hard drive is truly a gift from the heavens.
Aside from the bootleg videos that look like they’ve been shot on a 1920s camera, our brave men and women don’t have much when it comes to entertainment over there. So, grab an external hard drive and load that puppy up with all their favorite movies, and then toss in a pleasant surprise with a few hours of porn.
Memorabilia From Home
When going out, my friends got into the habit of procuring “souvenirs” from my favorite bars and sending them to me along with the usually James Bond-esque stories that were involved in the heist. It really meant a lot to me to know that even though I was half a world away, in some way, I was out with them. The fact that my room was decorated like your typical favorite local watering hole was pretty badass, as well. It also served a dual purpose, but I’ll get to that later.
The men and women overseas can obviously get a little homesick and love when you include some items that’ll remind them of home and let them know you were thinking of them. When I sent out my care package, I made sure to include a Texas flag along with some things that happened to fall into my possession when going out. If a moscow mule cup magically makes it home with you, or a neon shiner sign, be sure to include it in your package with the other things that will remind them of the good ol’ US of A.
If you were lucky enough to live on or near a base with an AAFES PX, you’re an asshole and are probably the reason all tobacco products sold out as soon as they arrived. Nothing is ever fresh over there, but even a month’s old can of Copenhagen was a highly valued commodity. Let me tell you, when you haven’t had a fresh dip in three or four months, it is better than Christmas when you get a care package with a couple of properly prepared logs in it.
Contrary to popular belief, it is actually legal to send tobacco products to soldiers in APOs/FPOs. There are certain restrictions on it, so if you don’t feel like jumping through all the red tape, you can always risk it and just not declare the tobacco on your customs form. The properly prepared logs SGT W is referring to is a wonderful tip to keep cans fresh and more flavorful for long periods of time. Get a bottle of Maker’s or Jack, and add a few drops to each can. It keeps the dip moist and adds a nice kick to get a little buzz, then just tape the cans back up and you’re good to go.
Energy drinks are basically worth their weight in gold over there. Very limited supply with an extreme demand. A very interesting economy exists while on deployment. There’s basically a black market. If you’re sitting on a sizable stash of Red Bulls or 5-Hour Energy, there isn’t much you cannot barter for, like alcohol for example. According to General Order 1b, alcohol is strictly prohibited. As we all know, though, rules are made to be broken. There are various methods you can use to acquire alcohol while in country, unfortunately I can’t relay those in such a public forum in order to preserve the viability of those methods. I also cannot admit to ever drinking alcohol while in country, but I will say the fact that my room looked like a bar was not purely for decoration.
I’ll start off with the non-alcoholic beverages. Include some favorite drinks they can’t get access to, such as sweet tea, energy drinks, lemonade, etc. Not only will they enjoy wetting their whistle on an American product, but they could also use it in a mixed drink…which brings me to alcohol. They don’t have access to the nearest Specs and everything it has to offer (which is a lot by the way). We think we have it hard after a long day of class, just imagine how bad they could use a drink after a tough day of kicking ass and taking names. You’ve got to be creative in your shipping methods, though. If anyone would like some tips, hit me up on Twitter. I’d gladly help out those who have no idea how to ship alcohol across seas.
I was incredibly blessed to have unbelievably supportive family and friends. I even had random strangers sending me stuff. It’s hard to explain how much of a morale booster it is receiving care packages. As much as you guys appreciate what we do over there, we equally appreciate any and all the support we receive from back home. It doesn’t matter really what is in the care package, just the fact that someone took the time to gather some stuff together and go deal with postal workers means the world to us. It’s a perfect little reminder of why we do what we do. God bless you guys for all of your support for the troops, and God bless America!
While we are out throwing back cold ones and grilling meat, let’s take a little time to provide our soldiers with a little piece of home on this wonderful holiday. If you do not have friends or family serving our country but would still like to help out and create a care package, sign up for the Adopt A U.S. Soldier program. Also, if anyone reading this is currently deployed and you have any more recommendations, leave them in the comments below. God bless all of you who are serving and I hope you all get back home safe and sound very soon.