Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Operation Care Packages!!

Hello friends...

I am a little more excited than normal for this post *and slightly teary*.  I love sharing information with others who want to support the morale and needs of our soldiers.  As most of you know I am a PROUD Army mom and support all U.S. soldiers.  I am grateful for their service, their sacrifices and I understand and am thankful for the sacrifices of their families as well.  It doesn't matter how old your children are, when they make their living in harms way for the safety of all other Americans it swells your heart with a pride I have never known.  It also fills you with a worry you have never known. (hopefully).  You pray for their safety, the safety of those they are in combat with, and you pray your soldier is never the one who "gave all".  It is the reality of parents, spouses, children and siblings of a soldier. 

My son, on his graduation day from BCT.  Ft. Jackson, SC
Let me introduce you to my son Spec. George Simmerman III (aka Cody).  He has served 3 years so far, and so far, has no plans of leaving.  When Cody was in 5th grade, his teacher called me and told me I would never believe what he had said in front of his class.  You mean not a, "what did my kid do now call"??  WOOHOO!   During a discussion about our country and military in his class, the teacher asked if anyone thought they wanted to be a soldier.  None of the children raised their hands.  Cody, who seemed rather annoyed she said, stood up, threw his hands in the air and said, "If NOBODY wants to be soldier, WHO is going to keep us free?   We don't just GET to be free ya' know, it is DUMB that none of you want to help our country".  Sounds just like him.  He then told his teacher he was going to be a soldier, and he would never change his mind.  His dad was in the USAF, both of his grandfathers were in the USAF. 

When we got word of his pending deployment, I went through so many emotions.  After all, this was my first time dealing with deployment.  And it was my son.  I will never forget the last words he said to us before he boarded the last plane out of the US.  "Mom and Dad, if something happens to me, don't let it ruin your lives.  Know that I was proudly serving the country I love, and that I did it with honor and pride and the wellbeing of my fellow Americans in my heart".   I will never forget those words.  Ever.  So that is my story as an Army mom.  After I put the worry in the back of my mind, I kicked into, "how can I help get him through this knowing he hasn't left our hearts of minds for a second" mode. 

Hooaah! A few months after his return from Iraq

Cody was deployed for 12 months. We sent care packages to him at least once a month, sometimes twice.  It would take 2 weeks for a package to arrive.  A couple of times it took 10 days and a couple of times it took closer to 3 weeks but on the average allow 2 weeks.  The post office has a flat rate box specifically dubbed a "military care pkg" size.  You will receive a special, lesser shipping rate as well.  Make sure to stop by the post office and get some customs forms.  You will need to fill them out for every package you send.  Get 3 or 4 if you are going to be sending them regularly, it is much easier to fill them out at home and have it done when you get to the post office to mail the package.  Tape your package WELL.  Pack it WELL.  It will get shaken up, thrown about and tossed around during its trip overseas! 

Here are some things Cody suggested and things I sent.  I am sure this isn't everything but a list of the things he really appreciated getting at least.

Rice Krispy Treats  (bought or homemade, I wrapped them individually in saran wrap)
Cookies  (ship in empty pringles cans, you can individually wrap them as well for extra freshness)
Chex Snack Mixes
Flavor packets for water, koolaid, propel, hawaiian punch, flavored tea, lemonade (this is a HUGE one for him and I made him share!)
Foot Powder
Athletes Foot Cream
Energy Drinks (not sure about the technicality of this but he loved getting them and so did his buddies, long duties and no sleep, these were a hit)
Baby Wipes (antibacterial or regular)
Phone Cards 

I also sent toothpaste, new toothbrushes,  Ziploc bags to store things or it would be full of sand.  Some of the things I sent, he could get, but it saved him a little money and gave me piece of mind he had what he needed or usually used.  Deodorant, he couldn't get his favorite kind, so I sent a ton!!  Leave it to my kid, to be in battle and be concerned he was stinkin'!   After awhile I was completely stumped for new things to send.  I came across a website of which I no longer remember and it suggested themed care packages.  It gave no ideas persay but just was a suggestion.  I took that idea and went crazy with it! 

I wish I had photos of all of these, but Cody was able to help me remember some of things I sent, so he must have really liked them to remember it year or longer later!

Movie Night
2 movies (favorites or new ones)
bags of popcorn
popcorn bags (I went to a movie theatre explained what I was doing and they gave me a ton of popcorn bags and boxes
an adapter for 2-4 headphones to be plugged in.  If he wanted to watch with a couple of buddies he could plug the adapter into his computer and there were 4 plugs having off of it for others to plug in headsets or earbuds.
Flavored water packets
M & M's  (yes, wrap anything chocolate in a couple layers of newspaper, his got there UNmelted)

The first photo I saw of him in Iraq.  He is the one kneeling on top and I only knew it was him by his tattoo! (because he and his dad have matching ones)

Comic Books
Superhero movie
Any candy with superheros on them! I had Spiderman Taffy, Xmen lollipops, Superman gum, etc..
More flavored packet drinks some may have  superheros on them!
Box of cereal that had Superman on it

Pizza Party Package
Prepackaged pizza crusts.  (I got mine at the Dollar Tree and Cody said they were awesome)
PLASTIC squeeze bottle of pizza sauce
Prepackaged, non refrigerated pepperoni and genoa salami
Packets of parm cheese and red pepper flakes (Went to Pizza Hut and again they gave me all I wanted and said to come back anytime when I explained what i was doing)
Pizza Candy (shaped)
Root Beer Flavored drink packets
Paper plates
(they did not have microwave access so they made the pizza's and put them out on the retaining wall to heat up and melt the cheese, he said they were awesome, maybe he was exaggerating but none the less he was thrilled to have what he said was more REAL of a pizza than what they could get)

My Favorite Things (at least Codys favorite things)
Favorite personal hygiene items.
beef jerky
rice crispy treats
tea bags and a plastic pitcher with a lid,  and sweet and lo  (he made sun tea)
Sunflower seeds (all flavors)
CD of his favorite songs

Christmas Cheer Package
First, I wrapped every single thing in this box in Christmas wrapping paper.  Who cares what it is, it is presents to open!!
Flat cardboard Christmas tree decoration for him to hang
Santa hat(s)
Stocking full of odds and ends
Christmas candy
Photo of his daughter with Santa
I asked my family and friends to send me a Christmas card for Cody, inside another envelope, and I included them all, I think I had 30-40 Christmas cards from friends and family that I sent him.
I sent him a copy of my Christmas letter so he would feel more apart of the holiday.
A flat snowflake decoration, it has special meaning in our family. 

Sports Package
Sports Illustrated
Any other sports magazines
Sports sections from a handful of different newspapers
Hot dog shaped candy
Fruit snacks shaped like footballs, basketballs and baseballs
sunflower seeds
big league chew gum

He turned 21 while in Iraq.  I do have a photo of this package I sent!  You may not be able to see it all so I will list what was in there.

I was able to purchase from the Dollar Tree prepackaged pound cake and angel food cake.  I included 2 or 3 kinds of icing.
Plastic knives and forks
Birthday hats, napkins, plates, blow horn things, clown sugar decorations.
I sent silly putty, whoopee cushions, and the paddles with a bouncy ball attached. 
I also did the same thing as with Christmas and collected birthday cards for him from family and friends.  It was fun for him to share with his buddies and he said they all reverted back to age 10 with the whoopie cushions and silly putty!!

With any holiday, as long as you plan ahead you can get them holiday goodies on time.  Like I said, I got chocolate there without it melting by wrapping it in a few layers of newspaper. 

We wrote letters every week.  Cody wrote, and we would occassionally get to Skype, but their internet connection was terrible and it was usually long enough to share "I love yous", but sometimes we got lucky and it would be longer.  As long as I could SEE he was doing ok, I was ok!

In one of his first boxes, after spending a month of not being able to eat I included some condiments he loved.  I went to Taco Bell and got tons of fire sauce.  He loves hot sauce and their condiment choices were slim, so I figured if I sent hot sauce he could down anything!  I also sent cup of soup mixes by the case I think. 

When we spoke on the phone, the first thing he reminded me off was the tea bags and flavor packets for water.  He was never a big soda drinker so instead of always water, he enjoyed those a ton. 

I hope this gives you some ideas, a few suggestions and some inspiration to send a care package to a soldier.  Nobody knows a soldier like their parents or spouse.  Letters from home, colored pictures from their children or younger siblings, family photos, these are what makes home a little closer.  Just send things you know your soldier enjoys!!!!  If you are sending a care package to a soldier you do not know, they will love whatever you send! I also don't know a single soldier who wouldn't appreciate your prayers.   I certainly don't have all the how-tos but I am sure there are many websites to find more information if you would like.  I just wanted to share my themed packages, and how I did things. 

Let me know if you would like to adopt a soldier.  I am hesitant to promote any organization because I haven't checked any out personally, but I can assure you I will find you a soldier if you want to send a package!

Let me know if you have any questions.  You can email me @ ftchefwannabe@hotmail.com or message me on my Facebook Fan Page.  I will always do anything I can to get you information you need!!!

God Bless OUR soldiers!  And GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Your "PROUD mom of one courageous soldier ok AND adorable"chefwannabe

Excuse the fingers....they belong to my daughter in law!

PS.  If you have items to add, please leave it in the comments below.  Any things I may have left out to send or additional information.  I certainly don't know everything so your input is appreciated!


  1. Oh I love this! AF wife 23 years, husband deployed 2 times, 2 remote tours, served overseas in Germany, countless TDY's; daughter served 8 years, deployed 2 times, served overseas in Guam and Korea. The care packages are so important and I always sent enough to share. Even made salsa and sent that to our daughter in Guam ... they had a "salsa party" and ate it all along with the tostito chips! LOL! Thanks to your son for serving! What an honor it is as a mom and an American to simply say "thank you for your service!"

  2. What a wonderful post! I will certainly be putting this to use! My nephew is currently serving his 2nd deployment in Afghanistan, this last time leaving his wife and 2 mo. old baby daughter at home. My niece was also deployed this year and has just returned. I pray for all the soldiers and their families and am so grateful to have a little way to say my humble "thanks".
    Another great website is http://greenbeanscoffee.com/ Where you can buy "cup of joe for a Joe". I've done this several times and have gotten some wonderful thank you's from the soldiers who receive the coffee. Just a little something to brighten their day.
    Thanks again for all the great information!

  3. Love your post...my dad served 40 years in the USN. During Vietnam (I was in Jr High)we lived in Japan, and my mom brought us to the hospital to volunteer with the wounded soldiers. They were just a few years older than us...just babies!!! Your info was so helpful. My husband Todd and I have wanted to put together care packages for the troops. We don't know anyone personally that is stationed overseas at this time. Todd is a Chef by profession but loves to bake sweets...Homemade Almond Roca is the #1 Fan Favorite of his. He bakes for months over the holiday season. I can't wait to start planning our care packages. I will pray for your son's safety as I do for all those babies over there <3 Aloha, Jan