It’s easy to take the little things for granted. For most Americans, stocking up on snacks, baby wipes and Kleenex is as simple as heading to a convenience store.
But for troops stationed around the world — especially at overseas locations like the Mideast or Okinawa — stocking up on every day commodities can mean waiting on, or rationing from, care packages shipped from the United States. However, even the most thoughtful — and jam-packed — of care packages eventually runs empty.
Luckily, the USO is there to help.
Anyone who wants to create the ultimate box of goodies for the troops can do so. Remember, even just one package worth of supplies can brighten a service member's day.
Step 1: Find a USO center
This is easy. A list of all our centers can be found here. Click the dropdown menus on the left side of the page to search for a center in the region you want to help out.
Step 2: Check in with that center before you buy
Before you gather supplies and seal that box, send your selected center an email to doublecheck that they're able to receive care packages and ask them what sort of items troops at their location need most. They’ll help you get the right address to send your package to, too.
Step 3: Fill up a box
We always defer to the individual centers’ knowledge (see Step 2) when it comes to knowing what troops need. No one knows our troops like the USO staff and volunteers on the ground. Still, we took the liberty of compiling a list of some of our downrange troops’ favorite things to receive in care packages:
- Healthy snacks: Jerky, trail mixes, granola bars and fruit snacks
- Drink mix packets: Gatorade, lemonade, iced tea and crystal light packets
- Microwavable food: Easy Mac, popcorn, Cup O’Noodles, Chef Boyardee, oatmeal and other snacks that come in their own bowl (dining ware is scarce in Afghanistan)
- Non-perishable food: Tuna cans or packets, fruit cups, peanut butter, Nutella, soups and other canned foods
- Chocolate: Wait until the winter months to send chocolate, as it will melt in the mail if sent now
- Toiletries: Travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash, wet wipes and hand sanitizer (Please send these in separate boxes from food — no one likes shampoo-flavored oatmeal!)
Step 4: Don’t have the time? We can do it for you …
Everyone has something they’re passionate about. And if you’ve read this far, helping our troops is probably one of those things for you. But time can get in the way, especially during the holidays. If you still want to help troops, but can’t make it to the store to fill up a care package, the USO can take care of it for you through a donation to USOwishbook.org, where you can send items like comfort food packages, books, movies, video games and more.