Marines especially like letters, cards, photos of you and your family - anything that will remind your Marine of home.
If you can get hold of your Marine's local newspaper this is especially appreciated – photos of your Marine's hometown events and vistas are great.
Kids' drawings and notes – many classrooms and Sunday Schools are taking on the project of writing to Marines and other service members – how about yours?
Note: Send 100% cotton only; polyester/nylon/other synthetics stick to skin when exposed to high heat or flames. (Yes, this is what you are thinking.)
Don't worry that you might send something the Marine won't like. Items that your Marine can't use are shared or bartered.
If you don't know much about your Marine, and the likelihood is high that this will be so at first, or if you just want to send something to your Marine on a one-time basis, here are some safe items to put in a care package:
No booze, no porn, no chocolate (melts - - drat!), no home-cooked treats (not packed well enough to ward off critters), no photocopied (books, etc.) or "ripped" (CDs, DVDs, etc.) items, no firearms or explosives.
Unless you know what kind of cooking facilities the Marine has, don't send stuff that should be heated to be palatable. There might not be a microwave available. (Some of our Marines live in very primitive conditions. No electricity, for example - - which also means no air-conditioning.) Room temperature snacks and junk food are the way to go.
If want to send something expensive, such as a DVD player or a laptop computer, there are a few wrinkles in the shipping process....if you want it to get into the hands of your Marine. Expensive things often find their ways into the black market, etc. To help ameliorate this problem - -
My personal take on this is if I send a box and get no acknowledgement of arrival, I don't send a box to that person again. There are plenty of other Marines! It's not so much a matter of etiquette (though your mother and mine will say it is!) as a matter of mailing a box "into a black hole" and never knowing where it went!
And that's the problem. There is no guarantee of when the letter or package will arrive. (A postal clerk told me it would be "7-10 days from the West Coast to Iraq". In some unfortunate cases, the stuff is forwarded to the Marine after he/she returns home! This is one reason to pick a Marine (if you use anymarine.com) who has a date far in the future to leave the overseas posting). And, of course, as little as we like to imagine it, there are some things that just go astray, never to be seen again and contents unused.
Presumably when your Marine rotates back to the States, you don't need to send him anything unless you want to send an occasional "giftie", such as a gift certificate that's enough to cover a DVD or CD from an online store.
Certainly, if you wish to communicate with the Marine after the deployment,cards and letters probably will be much welcomed.
This presumes, of course, that both you and your Marine would like to keep in touch. Although some young Marines appreciate continuing to hear from their "adopted families," don't feel an obligation to maintain the correspondence with the regularity you kept up while the Marine was deployed. If communication from the other end eventually peters out or you are unable to or don't wish the continue the pen friendship, send a "last letter" and be well-satisfied that you have made a big difference in someone else's life.
For more information on deployed Marines, see the files on:
packing boxes for shipment
sending letters to Marines
adopting a Marine or a service member in another branch
easy (free) charts to use in a cross stitch kit
Last updated August 22, 2006.