Not Food.

July 19th, 2009 by katie

I need suggestions from the been there done that military families.  My cousin just arrived at boot camp and I’d like to send him a little we’re thinking about you care package but the rules say: not food.

So what does a young guy fresh into boot camp need other than food?  Tylenol? Magazines? ChapStick?


Update: So do you think a phone card so he can call his mom and his girlfriend?  What about stamps and envelopes?  Will they let him keep that stuff?

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16 Responses

  1. Michelle

    I’m so glad you’ve asked for suggestions about this. My godson leaves for boot camp in about two weeks and I was wondering what kind of care packages we could send for him.

  2. Sam

    If basic training today is like it was 9 years ago, he wants treats. But they won’t let him have treats, so you have to sneak it in. I remember eating M&Ms out of a shampoo bottle. The aftertaste was disgusting, but I kept eating. Figure out how to sneak him candy, and he’ll be grateful.

  3. Eric

    Magazines? No, his drill sergeants will keep them for themselves, same for the Tylenol.

    When I was in boot camp in 1991(GOD, that is almost 20 years ago!), I really appreciated current photos of family and friends along with the letter that they sent.


  4. Lindsay

    Do not send food… I sent a bag full of mints to a guy in Basic and the drill Sargent made him eat the entire bag right there… about 50 big peppermints. He said it was awful. I also sent letters from friends, pictures, puzzle books, and personal hygiene items.

  5. Cyndi

    My husband says that he truly valued the letters from home. Otherwise, send treats for AFTER he graduates from basic – especially things like brownies and home-made cookies. He’ll have had his fill of mess hall food.

  6. sweetbird

    Hey Katie, be sure to thank your cousin for his service. I just asked my, apparently very grumpy at the moment, husband who is in the Army what he would’ve liked at basic training. His response, “Anything worth having will be taken by the mail guy, the supply guy, or the drill sergeant.”

    Send letters, photos, etc. Do NOT send magazines, tylenol, or attempt to smuggle candy in. His superior officers will confiscate all of those things, and there’s a very good chance he could land in a load of hot water just for receiving those things. The last thing you want is for your well intentioned gift to make his life infinitely more difficult.

    If he’s close with your kids have them draw him pictures. Send photos of the family or of things he enjoys. Don’t get too mushy with letters or they may read them to try and humiliate him. In the end, it’s just something he’s going to have to suffer through, but knowing that other people are thinking about him and sending him good energy will hopefully be encouragement enough.

    And again, thank him for his service.

  7. Kelly

    When my brother was in boot camp for the Marines, I handed out pre-addressed envelopes to all of his friends, encouraging them to write. Just like everyone has already said, pretty much anything you send him will either be confiscated or get him in trouble, and letters from home are definitely a top priority!
    My bro had a pretty hard time in boot camp, and considered dropping out once or twice… but he said that letters from family and friends, especially people he didn’t expect to hear from, like neighbors and distant relatives, really encouraged him to stick it through. Enclose pictures if you like, but nothing that will embarrass him! Nothing is private in that world, so anything you send him will likely be viewed by everyone else.

  8. TheresaG

    Letters and pictures are the best things to get. I also sent my brother funny stuff, like clippings of comic strips from the Sunday funnies. I did once send him a card with a few grounds of coffee taped to to the inside. It was near the end of his basic and I wrote him that just a few more obstacles and then he can have a good cup of coffee. When he opened the envelope, he got a nice whiff of coffee. During my own basic, my mom sent a note with a toll free number to call her on, since she knew the standard phone card we’d gotten wouldn’t last more than a moment or two.

  9. Hope

    A lot of it depends on the branch of service in which they are in basic training. My husband, who served in the Marine Corps, said that his pictures were confiscated until basic training ended. I went through basic training via the Air Force and they were a lot more lenient. We received pictures and got to keep them. Even though I do not suggest it – they sometimes let us eat the “contraband” candy we received in some packages. Do not send that though! Honestly….I’d send encouraging letters. If you want to send additional items I’d wait until after he graduates from boot camp.

  10. Robin Sue

    Jokes, something that will make him laugh and cheer him up. All my Army guys liked small packs of baby wipes for quick “baths” whenever they got a spare moment. News paper clippings from home, pictures, and frequent letters. He will cherish anything!

  11. Jen

    When my husband went through Air Force basic about 8 years ago I would send letters.. pages and pages and pages of letters. Of course, the part that was my writing was only about a page of it – the other ten pages were sports scores! They have NO access to news or anything else while they’re in basic and the ones who like sports are starved for information – if you want to make him everyone’s best friend send him the top sports news and scores for whatever is in season right now and THEN unwrap an airhead (those flat tangy strips) and stick it in the middle of that fat stack of papers. Sprits on a little perfume and send it out.

    I don’t think my husband ever shined his own pair of boots.

  12. Julie

    Condoms. Seriously. You never know.

  13. Candice

    I thought maybe a group photo of family and friends in their own ‘bootcamp’ gear all covered in mud and smiles with a big sign reading – WE BELIEVE IN YOU! – maybe something for him to keep under his pillow and get a smile out of. God bless him.

  14. Amy

    Letters and pictures are most cherished. Puzzle books and personal toiletries (including chapstick and baby wipes or sanitizing wipes) are very good also. Do NOT send food or medication or anything valuable. Assume that anything you send *will* be either shared or confiscated – nothing is private.

  15. Lola

    I echo what others have written — no candy, food, or other treats. It’ll either get taken, or they’ll use it to make his life worse. (You’ll be able to send it after basic, though). While he’s there, just write as often as possible….doesn’t matter how mundane, he’ll appreciate the connection to the outside world. My cousin just finished, and he said the zillions of letters from home were what got him through it. If you want him to write back, send paper and stamps, too, because he may not be able to get any.

  16. jen

    i just found your blog, so, yes, i am a year late in responding to this question–hopefully he’s made it out of bootcamp by now!

    but if he’s deployed–anywhere–send homemade cookies. and the trick is this: buy yourself a foodsaver–yes, the cheesy, 1980s info-mercial foodsaver. freeze the cookies individually first before vacuum-sealing them (so they won’t break apart). even in situations where mail takes 4 weeks, the cookies come out “tasting like you made them yesterday” according to my solider friend deployed to the desert for 18 months.

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