Sending items to deployed family members

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2003

Is this a great country or what? In the past few weeks, a number of newspaper articles, web sites and service organizations have come together to promote support for service members who are deployed overseas in support of contingency operations.

There have been Web sites set up, editorials, etc.

In addition to these groups, many people have come forward to ask how they could write a letter, showing support, which would be given to any service member. Again: is this a great country or what?

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As the national fervor of support for the troops continues, well-meaning Suffolk residents need to understand some of lesser know ground rules if contemplating a letter or package.

In a recent press release, the Marine Corps Community Service Web site stated, &uot;The government is not accepting mail from the general public to service members for two reasons: logistics and security. The military postal system does not have the capacity to screen for safety and process the tons of mail normally generated by Any Service Member mail. To add to the difficulty, the volume of mail may delay the bona fide mail from family and friends.

A recent Coast Guard message added that &uot;Individuals, schools, and service organizations interested in sending letters supporting deployed service members should use as an alternate means of sending messages of support.&uot; For a list of other ways to Support Our Troops click this link:;

But what if you have a deployed family member or friend if you have the title, unit or address?

Foremost: Keep the packages small (no bigger than a large shoe box). Larger packages could take longer to deliver. Remember in many cases, even if deployed to a vessel the amount of space a person is allotted is not a whole lot! The Marine Corps suggests &uot;Smaller, more frequent packages are likely your better option. The U.S. Postal Service offers FREE boxes for Priority Mail. You can also order free boxes from the USPS online store (for use with Priority Mail shipping ONLY). The recommended size is the four or seven box.&uot;

Now that you have a good idea of the size of the box you would like to send, what’s next. Develop a list of items you think someone would need in the field or onboard a vessel.

Here are some suggestions: Razors, shampoo, sun block, lip balm, batteries (such as AA), disposable cameras, a new copy of Sunday’s News-Herald (or portions of it!). Recent magazines and even a new paperback novel.

Now you have to pack the stuff. Remember in some cases depending upon where your loved one or friend is they will receive their mail airlifted. The handling will be significant. From airport to aircraft to helicopters or vehicles. Add in the sandstorms, temperature changes and you get the picture.

To ensure that things get there, I use plastic bags with zip-style closures for everything. The gallon size ones, in particular, are great and they seal incredibly well.

The things you don’t want to send are anything that will &uot;melt down&uot; and create a mess themselves. I remember when I was deployed to the Arabian Gulf in 1999 my roommate received a package that had homemade fudge. Unfortunately in August it’s incredibly hot and my roommate received a kind of chocolate soup…complete with nuts. Some of it leaked and other items were coated.

Getting packages or letters from loved ones and friends really helps morale and gives a deployed service member.

The Boat Safe…and Boat Smart-type columns will return next week.

LCRD Joe DiRenzo is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.