The Value of Christmas Drives “For the Troops”?

On Wednesday, my mother emailed me a notice from the International Club at the high school where she works, about a “Home for the Holidays” stocking stuffer drive for our troops overseas. Like my best friend who put me in touch with an organization that puts together stockings for their impoverished clientele, my mother is very aware of the kinds of things I can get for free. She also knows that I enjoy a little challenge.

Well, I opened the file and here’s the list:

  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Cup noodles, e.g. ramen
  • Breakfast bars
  • Protein bars
  • Pringles in cans
  • Soup cups w/ flip lids
  • Twinkies
  • Twizzlers
  • M&Ms
  • Candy canes
  • GUM!!
  • Flavor packets to add to water

Okay, so it’s easy enough to figure out that the focus is on edible stuffers, and some of them are definitely treats. But ramen cups and granola bars? Really? Is this what the men and women in the cold mountains and deserts of the Middle East are craving? I assume they’re working from a list somewhere of things they actually want that can easily be shipped. I mean, I know that M&Ms are the only chocolate that can be safely sent because the candy shell prevents it from melting into a puddle.

I haven’t really gotten into the assorted “care packages for the troops” efforts because I don’t really understand them. Okay, so I sort of understood the campaign to send female underwear, simply because I’ve been in that position – I’m convinced no one makes underwear the way we do (or, more accurately, the way we tell the sweatshops in Guatemala to). But really, don’t these women have families to send them undies? And the same goes for all the other stuff I see in these lists. So I got the feeling that these support-our-troops campaigns were mostly just a way to assuage our guilt for being ensconced safely on our couches in our snuggies cuddling a collection of remotes.

Anyway, I’m having my mother check out how much wiggle room there is in this list because it’s so specific. Like, I can get an enormous bag of Skittles treat packs or Charms blow pops for 50% off now that Halloween is over – but it’s not Twizzlers and it’s not M&Ms. Is it still okay? It should be, right? Because, well, guess who has way too many dumb little $1 and $2 Register Rewards from Walgreens and is a little worried about losing track of them, both physically as well as in terms of expiration date? This seems like a nice use for them. And I won’t have to shell out $10 on postage, which is usually involved in most other for-the-troops activities. I really must try to find a way to coupon away postage…

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7 Responses

  1. I’ve sent care packages through Anysoldier.com for a while now. Anysoldier lets soldiers email their particular requests to the website. I’ve seen quite a lot of requests for everyday junk food like granola bars, ramen, vienna sausage, and popcorn. And of course everyone likes sugar (except for the few weridos who request things like protein powder and nuts).

    A small but significant percentage of our soldiers have joined the military to escape foster care or a terrible home situation. Those people are on their own; they don’t have any families to send them things. If they are lucky, they have friends or family members to whom they can send money for necessities to be shipped to them.

    The vast majority of the posts on Anysoldier, though, just seem to want letters and cards (Although, like any of us, they are not advers to gifts:). I get the feeling that our overseas military feel that they are forgotten by those of us here in the States, and it is nice for them to have some tangible reassurance that people here realize that they are fighting and dying over there on our behalf.

    I do think there’s a bit of guilt involved in all of this. After all, the packages that I send are nothing compared to the sacrifices that they are making. But I don’t think that that is all that is involved. Mostly, I am trying to give them one more human connection that reminds them of why they thought joining the military was a worthwhile endeavor.

    Also, the post office will give you a slight price break ($2 off) on the large flat-rate box if you are sending it to an APO address. This is on top of the discount they give you for buying your postage online.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! Most of the stuff I’ve stumbled across sounds very “conservative christian” in nature, and it’s sometimes hard to see past all that god hoopla to the real issue(s) at hand. I got tired of looking at sites like that and gave up years ago. I’ll check out AnySoldier…thanks again.

  2. have you been doing the pantene trial size deal? buy two get back $2 RR. i have no q’s for that but you could use the $1 and $2 off nicely there.

  3. I have quite a few friends that are/were in the military that served multiple tours overseas. They enjoy having items they can take on patrol with them(like granola bars, candy etc) because they are easy to throw in their kit. Same thing with the powder drink stuff, easy to throw in their kit or canteen to take out with them. Most aren’t picky about the candy they get. I think like you mentioned they put m&m’s because it ships easier than other chocolate.
    Beef Jerky is also a fail proof thing to send. But cards and letters are also always appreciated.

  4. I’ll chime in with the “small but significant” comment. My brother-in-law is in the Air Force and the makeup of our current military is…well, oy. For officers and the like, families can generally afford it without problem. But beyond escaping foster care, a significant (not small, from what I’ve read) number of *enlisted* folks come from poor families. Recruiters target low-income communities, because for many of these kids, there really aren’t many other options.

    So, if you’re making poverty wages in the military and your family is getting by on little to nothing, who’s going to send you anything? My sister is constantly putting stuff together for the enlisted guys, because they just don’t have anybody else who can do it.

    I’d like to see us do a little more fighting for fair wages for our military and other employment opportunities for those kids living in poor communities. But until then, I suppose it’s care packages, eh?

  5. I am currently serving in the AF. I have spent 5 years overseas and am now back home. Any kind of individual non chocolate candy is great! The after Halloween deals are perfect for that. Besides the junk food that they request, beef jerky, nuts, magazines and books and playing cards. When airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines go out on patrol, those granola bars, nuts, jerky really make a difference.

    Have you ever tried an MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat)? They arent nicknamed, Meals Rejected by Everyone for a nothing!

    Bathroom stuff, especially hand sanitizer is perfect for when you are out on patrol and want clean hands or clean anything. Travel size supplies are nice for patrols as well (think travel size tissues, t.p., chap stick, etc.)

    Cold weather gear (knit caps, scarves, and gloves) are also nice. The length of a deployment ranges from 3 to 18 months and eventually you run out of things or they get holes in them. And supplies at the base or post exchange, well, lets just say that choice and number is extremely limited. I know one guy who picked up an awful star magazine habit, because that was the only magazine available to him.

    I have also sent my fair share of care packages to friends deployed. The flat rate boxes from the post office are awesome or perhaps there is a local church or organization who will provide the postage but not the supplies.

    The US Postal Service has a whole webpage dedicated to supporting the troops. http://www.usps.com/supportingourtroops/

    also, click on the section labeled New Priority Mail® Flat Rate Box to order boxes for FREE!

  6. I also heard of adoptasoldier.com – that might be a organization to check out.

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