I knew nothing about the military when John and I were dating. I knew nothing about deployments. But I knew that mail was important and I wanted to make sure that John didn’t feel alone.
I looked up shipping guidelines and from what I could tell, I could count on it taking about one month for anything to get to him.
Okay, I thought. Let’s do this.
I made a care package even before he left and sent it about three weeks before his deployment date. By my calculations, it would make it to him one week after his boots hit Afghan soil. Perfect!
I packed it with snacks and fun stuff. I decorated it and colored the outside with Sharpies so that it (obnoxiously) said, “WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!” And yes, I even blew in a few kisses before I taped up the top and sent it off to Asia. (I’m corny like that.)
A few weeks later, we said goodbye. And suddenly that little care package meant even more. Somewhere, it was slowly making its way to John.
And then John and I were able to Skype. He was laughing. Hard. Not exactly the kind of call I was expecting for our first deployment one. In fact, he could barely make out the words at some parts. He held up my care package.
And then he told me that after they deplaned on the runway, some of the people they were replacing met them right there on the tarmac. Someone asked if there was anyone there with John’s last name. John said that that was him. “Well, congrats! You’re getting married!” one of the guys he was relieving said. Another one was holding a brightly colored, obnoxious box with huge letters: “WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!”
The box had beat John to Afghanistan… by two weeks. It had been sitting in their office, waiting for him, and the guys kept wondering who this John dude was and why he had gotten a care package so early… so they just had to bring the box to the tarmac and meet this guy with the crazy fiance.
John was embarrassed, but he was mostly really happy… and I learned that the mail was a little bit more unpredictable than I thought it was. (And yes, I was pretty embarrassed. The thing I didn’t want to do was look like a psycho fiance.)
Almost every military spouse or milso has a care package fail story. Some of them are pretty straight-forward– bottles that had broken, cookies that had smashed– and some of them are a little bit, um, jucier. Without further ado, enjoy these 15 fails that are sure to give you a little chuckle (with some ideas on how to avoid the same). Don’t forget to share your fail at the bottom in the comments!
That’s a lot of lotion…
“It was his first deployment and my first time ever sending care packages. He was aboard a MEU (a ship) and I knew he didn’t pack sunscreen. Trying to be the caring wife, I decided to send him a gaggle of sunscreen. I was naive so it just got sent as is- no packaging, no wrapping, no taping, nothing. He received (I can’t believe they didn’t just throw it away) a soaking wet, mangled box. The sunscreen had obviously exploded everywhere and not only covered everything inside but also completely destroyed the box itself. I was mortified and I felt horrible. It was his first care package being away and it was totally ruined. I’m no longer allowed to pack any lotions or liquids for trips!” -Lauren, theSCOOPmama
Is this your first deployment? Here’s how to avoid the most common care package disasters.
And he still ate them
“One week prior to my husband even deploying, I tried to be thoughtful and send my hubby some fancy cookies from a bakery. My thinking was that then he would get them shortly after arriving on the ship and not have to wait as long for that first special gift from home. But, the day before he was supposed to deploy his entire role changed and he ended up not even getting on the ship until months later. When he finally did get on the ship, the cookies were there waiting for him! Apparently, they were a little hard, but still edible! I couldn’t believe he ate them…so gross!” -Sarah, Servant Mama
You don’t have to make homemade treats for every care package. Here’s what to do if you’re feeling burnt out or want to switch things up.
Sometimes you just lean into it
“My husband loves wine gums so I would send the Costco pack. Except by the time they’d make it to the OP they’d have melted and solidified into one ginormous wine gum. Kept doing it for every deployment after though because who doesn’t want a wine gum the size of your head?” – Kim, She is Fierce
When the Army makes tuna salad
“My husband loves tuna salad. I hate tuna salad. So I thought – hey – I’ll mail him tuna, mayo and relish. He had received many, many boxes in tact before this — nothing squished or mangled. But THIS particularly box had a really hard life before it made it there. It looked like it had been run over by many heavy things. And inside? A mayo, relish combo nightmare as the glass relish jar (way to go Amy!) had broken, as had the mayo plastic one, mixed and then sat in the glorious Afghan sun. Yuck.” -Amy, Humans Outside
Avoid a tuna disaster; Starkist will send tuna for free to military members.
An entirely different kind of “broke” care package
“My epic care package fail was sending a TV in a box (which was a TV and video game console in a giant pelican case that my husband created himself) registered mail to Afghanistan. It cost about $100 to ship the first time, but DUH…do not send registered mail to Afghanistan because the service member won’t be able to sign for it and they will send it back. So, I sent it again a second time for another $100 in shipping. Man, love makes you do crazy things.” -Lauren, The Military Wife and Mom
Candy and KBars = a match made in Iraq
“[My] kid was going to quit smoking, (in IRAQ!!) – in 2004. Asked me to send lemon drops – the really sour ones. Long shipping time – and when he got the package, I got an email – thanks for the lemon drop. singular. A GIANT lemon drop, they put it on a table and everyone used a KBar to break off a chunk. Lesson learned, send individually wrapped candies!” – Karen
Wax on, wax… on
“I sent him the cutest birthday package, all decorated with 22 birthday candles, to Afghanistan. Needless to say the candles melted and EVERYTHING was covered in 22 candles work the of wax!” -Kourtney, The Martins and the Marines
Check out these birthday care package ideas! (And leave the candles for later.)
Everyone’s got a cake jar disaster story
” I sent cake in a jar for one of his birthdays in Iraq. I followed directions online, but the first batch didn’t seal right, so I kept it home and ate it. (Yay deployment diet!) I thought the 2nd batch was good, so I sent it. Nope, apparently it hadn’t sealed either. He got a box of moldy cake in jars.” -Lizann, Seasoned Spouse
A little nervous about sending cake in a jar? These recipes have been tried and tested by military spouses.
The four-quel to Toy Story!
“A few patrols back someone got it in their head to send ALL THE GUYS on my husband’s submarine crew) little plastic army men in halfway boxes and maildrops. They ended up being stashed everywhere. It was a big game, and everyone had a good time with it … until one fell on the Captain’s head … during an inspection. lol For my two years as an Ombud every time we sent mail I had to reiterate DO NOT SEND ARMY MEN.” -Anonymous
Tasty hockey pucks
“I sent chocolate chip cookies one winter while he was in Afghanistan, and the snow prevented the box from getting there for several weeks longer than usual. By the time they got there they were hockey pucks!” -Kylie, Scribbles and Dots
Granola bars and nut mixes are shippable treats that have a pretty long shelf life.
No, really. It’s Snapple. Really.
“I can neither confirm nor deny shipping the world’s most expensive bottle of um “Snapple”. Which he hadn’t received any of the times I asked him about it. And with each “no, not yet” to my “did you get it”, I was more and more convinced I was going to be visited by someone from Customs or whoever it is that regulates shipping “Snapple”. But I had been smart. I’d wrapped the “Snapple” in a sad-sorry-taught-myself-how-to-crochet-to-make-it camo scarf. Spritzed with my perfume. ‘Cause ya know – I’m lame. End of story – scarf in winter – bueno. Scarf delayed by months and received in the middle of Afghanistan summer – no bueno. Scarf spritzed with my perfume – apparently amplified in the heat and so strongly scented that the unit hung the damn sorry thing outside so they could breathe inside. But good news amidst this all – “Snapple” is weather proof. And well received. And enough to make them forget the smelly sad sorry scarf.” -Anonymous
When Thanksgiving comes late
“I sent mine a whole Thanksgiving package. Canned ham, canned yams, canned green beans, little apple pie, powdered mashed potatoes — I can’t remember what else. I mailed it in October. He got it in January.”- Rebekah
Did someone say, Thanksgiving care packages?
“When we were stationed at Ramstein, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, and in his location, coffee was hard to come by. Naturally, I bought some to send to him along with other goodies in one of the first care packages I sent him. I went to the PO with the package all wrapped and my customs form neatly filled out, all items listed. The airman manning the mail counter looked at the form and said, ‘Ma’am, you can’t send coffee. It’s a rationed item.’ I said, ‘Yes, but this is for my husband, and I bought it with his ration card.’ ‘Sorry, ma’am. You can’t send rationed items.’ ‘But he’s deployed, serving our country in a dangerous location. Why can’t he have coffee bought with his OWN ration card?’ ‘I’m sorry, ma’am, but you can’t send rationed items.’ ‘What if I buy it off base?’ ‘You can’t send rationed items, ma’am.’ I’m sure he was just looking at me, thinking, ‘Don’t put rationed items on the customs form, lady.'” -Teri
So. Much. Glitter.
“I filled my husbands last box and added a layer of glitter to the top. (Because he mentioned how happy he was that I never used glitter) During transit the glitter managed to get on everything. He opened the box in his dark room with just a little light. He had no idea he had covered himself in glitter by going through the box. Then went to work. They had some great nicknames for him after that.” -Tara
It’s for morale!
“I sent my husband one of those singing cards that sang a song about beer and farts… He took throughout his office and even showed the now AF Chief of Staff, who I guess busted a gut laughing…” -Jodi
First deployment and my husband wants chips and salsa. I bought three bags of chips and two jars of salsa. Now I know to put liquids in ziplock and wrap in bubble wrap, but this time while testing how they fit in before doing all of that, I sealed the box. Call it deployment brain, but I totally forgot I hadn’t wrapped those jars up. Needless to say, they arrived broken and moldy.