Without spending a lot of money, you can help troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan get items they want and need while they are there. From socks to baked goods, some of these items are needed because of the climate they are in, while others are valued simply because they are unavailable or in short supply. The most important things they need though, are the things that connect them with home. Here is How To Know What To Send To Soldiers In Iraq And Afghanistan.
Certain items of clothing are appreciated. Socks: At the top of many of their lists, as their socks are constantly wearing out. T-shirts: Another clothing item that is often requested. Try to find out what color t-shirts they want, as the different services often wear different colors.
Beanie caps: These knitted caps are sometimes worn by soldiers under their helmets as liners.
Food items are always appreciated. Homemade baked goods are great, but pre-packaged food items often arrive in better/fresher condition. If your soldier misses their favorite homemade cookies, though, by all means send them! Raman noodles, Easy Mac, Lunchables, packaged drink mixes, coffee, sugar, creamer, tea, beef jerky, hard candy, licorice, microwave popcorn and almost any of their favorite foods that are non-perishable will be appreciated. A favorite snack food arriving in the mail can really make a serviceman's day! Your package can easily take 10-14 days to get to them and has to travel thousands of miles in the process, so buy items that can make that kind of trip. Pack your box as tightly as possible to minimize shifting and damage in handling.
Soldiers need things to occupy their free time. Many of them work long shifts, so when then do go off-duty, they need to unwind. A simple deck of playing cards is a popular item that many of them want. Hand-held video game systems, such as the Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP, and games to go with them, are very popular. DVD's are often requested, but these need to be titles that are specifically requested by an individual soldier, as everyone's tastes and sensibilities are different. These DVD's usually end up benefiting many soldiers, as they get passed around for everyone to watch. Portable DVD players are great to go along with the movies. Portable MP3 players are very appreciated also. They don't have to be an iPod or a Zune - there are many others that work well and are cheaper. Batteries are very welcome to power all those portable devices. Spend the extra money and send rechargeable batteries and chargers so that the soldiers will get lasting benefit out of them. Regular games are welcome too, for those times when groups of soldiers get together. If a game is popular over here, it will likely be popular over there too.
A soldier's favorite magazine is something they miss, too. They can't get regular subscriptions sent to them in Iraq or Afghanistan, so they need to have the latest issues sent to them while they are there. You could take it on yourself to send them their favorite magazine every month so they wouldn't miss an issue! The local newspaper is usually a big hit, too. It keeps them updated on what is going on back home, and they won't feel so isolated or left out when they return if they can receive it at least occasionally.
Lastly, they need to just hear from you! Personal letters or emails are important to them. You taking the time to send an email demonstrates to them that you really do care and are thinking of them. The personal things mean the most when you are that far from home. Send emails, send pictures, and send cards on every special occasion or holiday. They need that!
In Afghanistan, especially, soldiers appreciate getting letters mailed to them. Many of the troops stationed there are out on assignments away from any access to email or computers, but they usually have regular mail deliveries to their location. In this day of email and instant messages, it seems old fashioned to send a snail mail letter, but it can be the best way to stay in touch with a soldier on mission in Afghanistan.