Deployment Care Package Ideas
May 9, 2013 8:27 AM   Subscribe

My brother in law is deployed in Afghanistan for the next 7 months or so. He's in a relatively safe post on base. He has access to a commissary, internet, and PS3. While he doesn't really need things, he needs cheering up. What should my husband and I send him?

While I have some experience sending care packages to other family members, they were in country early on, living in tents. Baby wipes, junk food, card games were golden. BiL has access to a shower, a "7-11" style store and internet/laptop/PS3. He's been spending his free time working out, Skyping, and being bored.

The care package we're sending today has crossword puzzle books, beef and turkey jerky, various flavors of pistachios, a high-protien snack mix, Cards Against Humanity, and two handwritten notes. After this box goes, I have no idea what to fill the next one with.

He's asked that we don't send carb-y snacks or candy. He had gained some weight before deployment and has been working hard to keep it off. Other than that, he likes video games, dirt-bikes, historical fiction books. He's 23 and an army reservist if that makes any difference.
posted by fontophilic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Historical fiction? Send him the complete Aubrey-Maturin novels, which should hold him in good stead. You can send them individually if that makes for easier shipping. He might also like Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series, set during the Napoleonic wars. Finally, I'd also recommend Pillars of the Earth and it's sequel World Without End by Ken Follet and also The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson.
posted by jquinby at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he hasn't played them, how about some long, involved PS3 games that are not about war. I'm thinking Skyrim or Assassin's Creed (sort of historical fictiony), or to really goof off, the Lego Harry Potter games. PURE is a fun ATV-racing game which might make-up for missing dirt bikes.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jigsaw puzzles. The harder the better.
posted by mareli at 8:45 AM on May 9, 2013

Letters from home.

That's what he really needs. Write to him about what's happening in your life. Write often. Don't stop writing. Trivial things in your letters will be nuggets of gold to him. Tell him about your dog. Tell him about your kids. Tell him about the movie you just saw. Keep writing.

Mail from home is the most valuable thing there is for a soldier on deployment.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:45 AM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've worked for a couple specialty coffee roasters, and good coffee seems to be a very popular thing to send to APO addresses. Sometimes up to 10% of a mail order batch gets sent to APO's.

If he's into coffee at all, send him a small shatter-proof french press, hand grinder and two or three of bags of whole bean coffee (they'll last much longer in whole bean form, and ship much better).
posted by furnace.heart at 8:48 AM on May 9, 2013

Since he's got the PS3, I say send his account lots of messages. Be silly, tell him stories, tell jokes, get epic threads going. There's something Pavlovian about seeing that email indicator pop up.
posted by jbickers at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on what the 7-11 type store is & how up to date they are, magazines.
posted by knile at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2013

Nth'ing Chocolate Pickle and jbickers. I've spent years on decent built-up locations in war zones, and once you've got the creature comforts, what you really want is contact with the people you care about. There is essentially no thing that he can't get via the PX or Amazon, so focus on talking to him.
posted by Etrigan at 9:05 AM on May 9, 2013

The Aubrey-Maturin series has provided me with great consolation a few years ago when I was unemployed with few prospects.

The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell is fucking kickass.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2013

Oh, and one thing re books: odds are his base is full of shelves that are full of donated books. I read the entire Jack Reacher series the last time I was in Iraq, just grabbing one off a shelf and putting it back on a different shelf for someone else to read. Ditto for TV shows and movies (hell, he's probably already seen Iron Man 3 via bootleg over there).

Not to say you shouldn't send him books, but you definitely want to ask him first what the setup is over there.
posted by Etrigan at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2013

Any favourite magazines? He probably has access to some at the PX but the selection is limited and they tend to sell out quickly.
posted by rpfields at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2013

He should be able to articulate if he needs a specific thing.

We had a friend in Iraq and we used to goofily send him all kinds of weird stuff. It was pointless and random. We would write little couplets on it, for example, we got him one of those eye masks you can either heat or chill:

Whether warm and toasty, or chill and cold
Batman's companion never gets old

Okay, that's dumb, but that's the point. Even if he threw it out or gave it away, I'm sure it gave him a smile.

With so much content for games, movies, TV and books available on tablets, and if he's got access to a commisary-type store, what helps is knowing that folks are thinking of him. Write an email a day, just telling him about what you've been doing. Even mundane stuff is interesting when you're away from home.

Take pictures of stuff you see in your travels and send them in an email.

Connection is the most important thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:23 AM on May 9, 2013

*Pre-paid phone minutes --- check to see what brand would be best.
*Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion (it's a great bug repellant).
*Lip balm.
*Those individual packets of flavorings you can put into a water bottle.
*Books, even more than magazines: they last longer. Just be sure they're paperback (more portable).
*DVDs of movies.
*And keep sending those personal notes!

Also, I've sent random boxes full of oddball stuff: I once sent a box with about 15 unassembled kites..... my soldier said his whole platoon had fun with that one. You know those little 3D puzzles you can take apart and (maybe!) put back together? How about something like a bunch of Rubik's cubes? Maybe a dozen or so disposable cameras --- sure, everyone takes their own, but sometime they get lost or damaged. Girl scout cookies.
posted by easily confused at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2013

Don't rule out things that he can share with his buddies. He's alone over there, as are the others, and if he can share something with somebody that comforts or brightens the day for him or his fellow soldiers, that's a good thing. I know if I was over there, I'd want to feel as close to the other soldiers as I could (with out crossing any lines of course) because there may come a day when somebody has my life in their hands, and I'd want them for hell sure to think of me as family.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, about writing to him: being on base, he'll have more computer access than if he was out in the countryside, but it is not likely to be available all day every day, and definately don't count on social media sites like Facebook --- some of them are blocked, all or part of the time. Email might not even be available every day, so don't freak out if you were to email him and oh my gawd, it's been five hours and he hasn't written back, is he okay?!? Give him a break: computer service may be down and/or no computer is available, or maybe he's just working.

When phoning or skyping, remember the wide time differential between here and there --- I don't remember the exact difference, but it's near 10-11 hours. (So calling in the middle of your afternoon might not be a good idea....)

Email is nice, but send old-fashioned mail too, something he can read and hold and carry around, and then reread over and over. Send hard-copies of photos. If there are kids in the family, get them to draw him pictures or send copies of their schoolwork.

And yeah, QueerAngel28 is right: send over stuff (toys, treats, whatever) he can share.
posted by easily confused at 11:07 AM on May 9, 2013

Remote controlled cars! 4 or more so he can race with his buddies. Even better if there are ATV style. I also love the kite idea or really anything that can be fun for a group. Maybe even a non violent boardgame like Settlers or Ticket to Ride (get the US version for people to talk about).
posted by saradarlin at 1:14 PM on May 9, 2013

Send something in the mail as often as possible. Actual mail, even a postcard, is a connection to home. Send stuff for holidays; I've found camo Easter eggs, and other silly stuff. Send stuff that's traditional for your family; for my son it was homemade chex mix. His cousin's Kindergarten class sent him pictures - very popular. Lots of friends and family sent him packages, and he liked that a lot.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on May 9, 2013

Remote controlled cars!

Check with him first -- the spectrum management people can get bugs up their asses about RC devices.
posted by Etrigan at 3:24 PM on May 9, 2013

My husband hasn't been on a long deployment in a while, but I remember sending a lot of chocolate covered coffeebeans & coffee, puzzles (+1 on the 3D puzzles suggestion), & letters with pictures. The letters with photos were most appreciated- I just took snapshots of friends, the dog, friends dogs, my walk to work, all kinds of nonsense & sent them.
posted by lyra4 at 3:54 PM on May 9, 2013

Etrigan beat me to it! I sent a friend a solar powered remote control car and he and his buddies loved it. Barnes and Noble has some really cool toys that are fun for adults. I would keep to that idea. We are all kids at heart. Why not send him something fun to play with?
posted by myselfasme at 6:00 PM on May 9, 2013

These are great to play with for hours, share, and then play with some more.
posted by rubster at 6:01 PM on May 9, 2013

Baby/personal wipes. Tissues. Nice shampoo and soap. Little toys.
posted by manicure12 at 10:57 PM on May 9, 2013

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