By Danielle DeSimone
For the sailor who has been on deployment out to sea for nine months, sometimes the smallest reminder of home can make all the difference. For the service members who have been called to duty and deployed to Eastern Europe at a moment’s notice , a few minutes of respite can bolster their spirits. And for the soldier serving on the front lines during holidays and birthdays, this gesture of gratitude can lessen the sting of being far from loved ones during those important times of year.
Sending care packages to troops is a tangible way to let service members know that their friends, family and the American people are thinking of them, even from thousands of miles away. However, the process of actually sending care packages to deployed service members can be a complicated one, which is why the USO has created the USO Care Package program to make it easy.
Here’s how to send care packages to troops with the USO, and just what a USO Care Package delivers to our nation’s service members.
USO History of Sending Care Packages
The USO has a long history of delivering care packages to troops. When the USO was founded in 1941 in response to the United States’ entry into World War II, the USO immediately jumped into action to support American troops. Although the organization quickly became known for its USO Camp Shows, which brought the likes of Bob Hope and Judy Garland to the front lines to entertain service members, the USO was also packing, preparing and sending care packages to troops deployed overseas throughout the war.
This tradition has carried on through the decades. As service members have selflessly placed themselves in harm’s way – from the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq – the USO has been by their side to deliver a little piece of home through its care packages. Approximately 200,000 USO Care Packages were delivered to service members all around the globe in the year 2021 alone.
Although the USO has been delivering care packages of all kinds since World War II, the organization formally launched the Operation USO Care Package program in 2003. The program was later renamed the USO Care Package program. This program created a standardized USO Care Package, which has been delivered to troops all around the globe for the past 19 years.
In November 2020, the USO officially delivered its 3 millionth USO Care Package of this kind to a service member deployed to East Africa.
Recently, as tens of thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to Eastern Europe in support of our NATO allies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the USO has worked quickly to ensure that these service members have a small reminder of home on their journey overseas. So far, over 26,000 USO Care Packages have been shipped out to be distributed to troops deployed to Eastern Europe, with another 5,000 on the way.
How to Send Care Packages to Troops with the USO
There are multiple ways to send a care package to troops overseas. USO Care Packages are sent to troops year-round, so one option to ensure that service members can receive long-distance support is to simply make a monetary donation to the USO.
Another way to send a care package to the military is through USO Wishbook, in which you can select a symbolic gift from a catalogue to be sent to service members to help lessen the separation felt by troops and their families as they work to protect our freedoms. By donating through USO Wishbook, you’ll be symbolically donating a care package to a service member in need of just a little comfort.
Sending care packages to troops through the USO not only provides service members with a touch of home, it also connects everyday Americans with our men and women in uniform by providing a physical way to give back to our nation’s military.
What is in a USO Care Package?
There are several different types of USO Care Packages, but the most common are the Snack Pack and the Toiletry Pack, which are the two types of care packages that helped the USO reach its 3 millionth milestone.
The Snack Packs and Toiletry Packs are ‘desert tan’ in color and constructed with a durable nylon material that has a M.O.L.L.E. system on the back of the pouch, so that service members can easily attach the care package on most military-issued gear.
The USO Snack Pack care package includes a mixture of treats and drink mixes. Many of these snacks are difficult or impossible to obtain while serving on the front lines, so receiving a USO Care Package is a welcome surprise and connection to home for many service members.
The USO Toiletry Pack care package contains a wide range of travel-sized hygiene products that can come in handy if a service member is running low on supplies, or especially if they’re working long hours out in the field.
Around the holidays, the USO delivers holiday-themed USO Care Packages in brightly-colored holiday bags, which are different from the traditional USO Care Packages. These care packages – and their contents – are especially important during this season. For those service members who are deployed overseas, this time is often a difficult one. Deployed troops are far from their friends, families and loved ones who they would otherwise be spending this season with, celebrating. So, to brighten their spirits and keep them connected to home, the USO delivers USO Holiday Care Packages. These care packages are often in colorful and decorated bags and are filled with snacks, toiletries and exciting novelty items, courtesy of several USO corporate partners.
Where Does a USO Care Package Go?
USO Care Packages have been assembled throughout the years by USO staff members, volunteers, many corporate partners and on some occasions, the general public at USO and partner events. FedEx, a USO partner for over 20 years, provides some shipping support for USO care packages and throughout the partnership has hosted several care package events with their employees, interns and community members.
USO Care Packages are most often sent and delivered to service members deployed to the front lines or serving overseas. This can be anywhere from a dusty corner of Kuwait, to a ship far off the coast of Japan, to the front lines of the COVID-19 response at home, to the frigid border of Poland amidst a war in Ukraine.
Regardless of where these care packages for troops go, they are always delivered to the hands of a grateful soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guard member in need of a connection to home, delivered thanks to generous donors like you.
-This story was originally published on USO.org in 2020. It has been updated in 2022.
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