Many students have loved ones overseas risking their lives for our country. Even though they may be 12 time zones away, there are many ways you can show them your appreciation for their dedication.
Unfortunately, this hits too close to home for U.S. citizens. According to the Marine Corps Times, more than 2.5 million troops from all military branches have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001.
Many Americans know about the war, but aren’t aware of the troops’ living conditions in the Middle East. Being sent to live in combat with extreme temperatures ranging from below freezing in the winter to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, there is little room for comfort. If that doesn’t make you homesick, imagine living in barracks, large tents, or combat housing units containing about 15 men, making it a tight fit.
“It’s not fun at all. You have to operate weaponry in extreme temperatures and it’s ridiculously hard. Plus, you get sandstorms sweeping in, making everything filthy, and the barracks are so crowded it feels like you’re piled up on one another,” Jeff Downen, Marine Corps scout, said.
As students and supporters of our troops, there is a lot you can do to send love to troops. Letters, care packages, pictures and homemade goods all qualify as appreciative gift options. Personal gifts are best. Letters are easy, quickest to receive and only require three U.S postage stamps.
“At least for my brother, something genuine and personal always does the job,” Amber Lang, senior, said. “You have to remember that most of them are extremely homesick and lonely, even if they’re afraid to admit it. Something like a handwritten letter telling how much you love them or sending some pictures. That’s as close as they can get to home, and they can have something tangible.”
Family pictures or drawings and paintings from loved ones are also very meaningful. Since most of the troops are on the field all day, being able to look at a picture of a friend or relative can help pick up their spirits during rough periods of separation. Thank-you cards are also a way to go.
Packages are ideal for making a soldier’s day. Some of the best things to send in packages are the simplest. Necessities include toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, soap, deodorant, shampoo, face and body wash, Kleenex, aspirin and cough medicines.
“You’d be really surprised at how much they need of just necessities. They pack what they can to get there, but that doesn’t last them the whole time. My brother will ask for things like shampoo, baby wipes, foot powder, etc. Also, little goodies are always nice too, so any candies that won’t melt are good, and DVDs as well for downtime,” Lang said.
If you’re going to send homemade goods, make sure it is something that will not go stale or is well-packaged, since the arrival time is seven to eight weeks after it is shipped. Also, don’t send homemade goods to someone you don’t know. Keep it with relatives and friends since the recipient could have a potentially harmful food allergy. Gatorade packets and tea packets are easy to send and are always desired.
“One time, my little brother sent me Crystal Light lemonade packets, and I was in heaven. The water here isn’t the best-tasting stuff, but that just made my day,” Downen said.
Even if you don’t know anyone deployed overseas, there are still ways you can help support the troops. A website called “Any Soldier Inc.” provides lists of soldiers along with their favorite foods and things as well as their APO/FPO addresses. If this website does not catch your attention, there are many others that have similar programs and different variations and suggestions.
Students can also look at the website for ideas of other things to send. Another way to support them as a CBU community is by prayer. It is not a physical gift but still one of the biggest acts of love students can give to someone.
“I don’t think people realize just how difficult it can be on a person being in their circumstances,” Lang said. “Also, I think it would be fun for students to get together with some friends and make care packages. Often times, you find that the older generations are the ones supporting the troops. I think it’d be fun and make a good impression if we cared and were supportive as well.”
As Americans, we should make every effort to support our men and women who have given up comforts and years of their lives to protect and serve this country. Send them some love.