Veterans Day: Tips for Sending Military Care Packages

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Veteran’s Day is a day of remembrance. It’s a day to honor and cherish the memory of those fallen in service, and a day to appreciate those that risk their lives for the United States every day.  This Veteran’s Day, we wanted to take a moment to recognize those people behind the scenes that support our veterans.  Lori, a member of the JustAnswer team since 2007, is a US Army mom who has a unique perspective on what it takes to support our freedoms.

What does your son do in the Army?

My son is an NCO.  His rank is sergeant, and he’s a Forward Observer, officially called a Fire Support Specialist, and affectionately called a FISTER. So, his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is 13F. Wikipedia has a really good article on Forward Observers in the US Military.   He has an additional skill identifier of Joint Fires Observer.

Is military life new to you, or have you been doing this awhile?

My son has been in the Army since 2006, and he’s been on 3 deployments during this time.  He was part of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq where he served as a door gunner in a Black Hawk, and was awarded the Air Medal of Valor, among other medals and awards, for a rescue operation he conducted after a helicopter with a dozen soldiers went down.

In 2009 and 2010, he went back to Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers to manage their own military, and he gathered intelligence and led missions in the capture and arrest of smugglers who were bringing illegal weapons caches across the border from Iran to Iraq.  He was attached to a Special Forces unit, and because they couldn’t be shown on TV, he was interviewed about the training they were engaged in.

He just completed a one year deployment in Afghanistan where he served at COP Zerok, very near the Pakistan border, in what the Pentagon calls one of the most dangerous pieces of real estate for a US soldier. 

What advice would you give to others in your position?

My son believes in what he does and is proud of the career he has chosen.   I respect his decision, understanding that it is his decision, and I try in my limited ability to understand the sacrifice he willingly makes for our country.  That doesn’t make it easy, and it can be very scary when I don’t get the phone call or email on the day and time I expect it.  When that phone call does come, it’s the sweetest sound in the world.

If I had any advice for others whose child has made this type of career choice, it would be to remember that it’s not about you, that it’s much bigger than you, your child, or your family.  You’ve stood guard over your child since the time they were born, and now that they’ve chosen to become a soldier, they have become your guardian of freedom and the American way of life.  You’ll have to be mentally and emotionally tough and disciplined.  Sometimes you’ll hate the choice they made, but that’s just the fear talking.  Remember that they are among the most well trained military in the world, and they know what they’re doing, even when we don’t.

What’s the best way to get a care package to a military member?

Google a list of restricted items so that you don’t get them in trouble and keep in mind that it can take 2-4 weeks, on average, for them to get a package during deployment.  If they’re in a remote area, your box will be tossed out of a helicopter with a little parachute on it, so use bubble wrap and don’t send breakables!  No matter where they are, an APO is domestic mail, so use the flat rate boxes and stuff them as full as you can.  Don’t forget hand-written letters, even if they have access to email.  They will take them with them in their gear and read them more than once.

What’s your advice to other moms who have a child in service?

When they get leave for R&R, let them direct the visit as far as what and how much they want to do.  Reintegration is hard on soldiers, especially when it’s just for a few days or weeks, and it can be overwhelming for them and take some time for them to get used to civilian life again, especially when they know it will be over all too soon.

Remember, they are or will soon become experts at what they do, and our job is to respect that and never expect anything less than the best from them.  One of the Army values is Personal Courage, and as a mother of an American soldier, I can tell you we need to adhere to that as well.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

Care Packages

Want to help, but don’t have a loved one overseas? Try these non-profit organizations that specialize in getting care packages to soldiers.