Why not observe Veteran’s Day with a useful gift for a current soldier? My wife’s co-worker is currently serving in Afghanistan, and he sent over a list of requested items from his unit. I’ve also read through several recommended lists online – long but good ones here, here, and here. There are some inconsistenties – one says to send homemade cookies, another says that nothing homemade is allowed. Some places accept books and music CDs, others don’t. However, between them there are definitely many things in common.
Mainly, don’t treat giving to the troops as a charity like Goodwill or Salvation Army. They are already supplied with all the essentials, and may have access to a commissary (though many don’t!). The point is to provide them with comfort and improve morale. They are far from home in a tough environment, so give them something that reminds them of their “normal” lives.
Don’t give them hotel toiletries, find out their favorite brand of toothpaste or shampoo and send them that. This applies to everything else as well. Find out what they want first if you can – requests can be very specific – and then send it to them. If you don’t someone particular in mind, you can get an individual’s name and address from AnySoldier.com, complete with their personal requests. In addition, here is a highly condensed list of popularly requested items.
Individual-wrapped items are preferred as they are easier to share and to carry around.
- Energy & Protein Bars – Clif Bars, Powerbars, Muscle Milk.
- Drink powders – Starbucks VIA instant coffee, Arizona Green Tea, Crystal Light Energy, Propel, popular GNC products. Also sugar, Equal/Extra/Splenda, and powdered creamer packets.
- Batteries (colder months only; AA, AAA, C & 9V)
- DVDs of current television shows and new release movies
- Recent magazines and/or newspapers
- Cards, board games, travel games
- Phone cards, unlocked GSM phones, or other way to call home
- Letters and picture to let them know that you support them.
- Thick heel, high or low ankle socks. Black, olive green, or white. Cotton or wool. Seems you can’t have enough good socks. These are also used to cool drinks. Less worry about getting the right size.
- Small plush toys or school supplies for Afghan children
Do not send alcohol or adult materials. Do not mix toiletries and food, unless they enjoy food that tastes like deodorant. Don’t send anything that will melt, leak, or explode like aerosol cans. Rather just order a pre-made gift basket online? Check out TreatAnySoldier.com.