Many people contributed to the list of suggestions of things to send your Marine. Many also repeated over and over NOT to send anything to recruits until they write you and specifically ask for something. You will see suggestions in the main hints list of things that were sent to recruits, especially right before the Crucible. Again, these moms checked with their recruit BEFORE they sent anything. One mom described the issue very well. She said that, "Our recruits are in Boot Camp for one purpose, the business of becoming Marines." It is not summer camp - no matter how sorry you feel for them, you will only make matters worse by sending unsolicited items to your recruit. They already are getting enough attention from their DI - they don't want any more.
That first letter from your Recruit
One of the most asked questions regarding boot camp is "When will I hear from my son/daughter?" Rest assured you will hear from your recruit but it could be a week or even up to two before the first letter arrives. And don't be surprised if that first letter sounds a little "robotic", it is pretty much dictated by the DI's for the recruits to copy and send since it will include a new address for the recruit. But that next letter will be one that you will easily recognize as one from your son/daughter. The first letters you receive from your recruit may be a little depressing for you. But, have heart, with each progressive letter your recruit will get stronger and more confident in their endeavors. You can see them grow into a MARINE.
What to Send
Letters - lots of them constantly! They cannot get enough mail. Encourage family members and friends to write also. They also like news clippings from home and pictures. Any pictures you send may have to be shared with everyone - so keep that in mind! Most moms agree that it was also ok to send stamps to your recruit. That's about it until they write and ask for specific things.
After you hear from your recruit and check, they will probably like to get pre-printed labels, with their address on some and yours on others. Make sure you have the proper postage on your letters - one recruit had to pay in sweat for 12 cents postage due!
What Might Happen....
Recruits have had to eat entire batches of homemade cookies all at once, had to give them all away, or just have them taken away. Some have had to do extra PT (physical training) to be allowed to keep their "surprise" gifts from home - or do extra PT in addition to having to eat them all or give them all away. Other items might be taken away from your recruit until graduation.
When your Marine graduates they have to pack everything they own in one bag and take it to an assigned place before the ceremony. What does not fit may have to be discarded, so send copies of pictures just in case. Also, your Marine may have changed in size since the beginning of boot camp, so may need clothes in new sizes after graduation.
After they graduate and go on to training you can shower them with packages from home and they will love it!
Care Packages and Goodies
One mom suggested that, although your Marine may get a little teasing upon arrival of some of these items, they sure know we love them!
First, here is a general word of caution to moms of recruits. Don't send anything until you hear from your recruit! The rules seem to vary and your recruit does NOT want any unexpected attention from their DI!!!! Pictures, news clippings, and stamps seem to be safe until you hear otherwise. Write them constantly! Make up mailing labels or pre-addressed envelopes with your recruits' address and send them to family and friends! One mom even sent pre-addressed labels for her recruit to send mail home.
Any kind of sweets or candy, beef jerky, peanuts, dried fruit, cookies (enjoyed even if they arrive broken), chocolate covered pretzels (might melt a little), tubs of bubble gum, Mike 'N Ikes, Fig Newtons, breakfast bars, power bars, Girl Scout cookies. Small cans of tuna make a nice treat with crackers, Vienna sausages, gum..... Buy in bulk at discount warehouse stores and send things a few at a time (or send it all and tell them to share).
Powdered drink mixes like Gatorade and sugar free lemonade. Juice boxes have been known to leak, so if you do send them, first seal them in zip-lock type bags. Marines also like packets of catsup, Tabasco, mustard - anything that can be added to MREs.
In general, think about the climate you are shipping to and how long it will take to get there. The longer it takes the more you should think about sending non-perishable foods.
Deployed Marines might like baby wipes for cleanliness. One mom said these were very popular. For hot climates - sun screen and Carmex for their lips. Other ideas - body powder and foot powder, cortisone cream....
For those Marines who have a cold or are stationed in remote (cold) areas, send aspirin, throat lozenges, crackers, packets of soup, apple juice, daytime and nighttime cold and flu remedies and tissues.
Chocolate is not always the best to send. They do without it so much in some locations, that when they get it, it can make them almost sick or give them diarrhea (send a product like Imodium if you think this may be a problem)
Moleskin - this stuff is GREAT! It is a thick felt-like pad with a sticky back. You cut it to size, peel off the backing paper, and put it on those sore spots on your feet (or any other body part where something is rubbing). Prevents blisters. Moleskin comes in two thicknesses and can be found in drug stores or variety stores, usually near the foot care items and/or bandages. One mom sent LOTS, all cut up in various sizes, before the Crucible, and won lots of warm mom points with her recruit and some of his buddies!! Send a pair of fold-up scissors with a package of each thickness to be a permanent part of their gear.
Another mom sent hand warmers to her recruit who was doing the Crucible in January when it was cold. You buy these at sporting goods stores. WARNING - do not send anything to recruits unless you know it is ok to send.
Beauty Supplies (appropriately named by one of the moms - and all our Marines are beautiful!)
Chap stick, hand lotion, Clearasil (they still don't want a bump on their face), toothbrush & toothpaste, razors, bars of soap, fingernail files and clippers (be surprised how those things can get lost), mouthwash (baggie alert here), deodorant, shaving cream, a new towel and washcloth (nice and fluffy, but hide that with a masculine color), breath mints (one mom suggested strong minty gum for when your Marine is out in the field and can't brush), their favorite cologne (baggie alert). Don't send aerosol cans, especially overseas. Your package may get returned to you.
One mom suggested fresh skivvies, and skivvie shirts part way through a deployment - so can they can be cozy again.
Memories for the Future...
This is an idea that anyone, mom or dad or even brother and sister can do. Save everything from the moment your Marine enlists and make a scrapbook. This can include enlistment papers, airline tickets, letters from boot camp, chevrons from previous ranks, promotion papers, graduation papers, pictures, newspaper clippings, etc.. the list can go on and on. Decorate the binder with some nice shiny stickers you can get from your local recruiter.
Videos of anything - latest hit movies, local sports events, CNN, home videos, documentaries, favorite TV programs, TV specials....
A Nerf football, in a backpack for those times when they get to relax, hand held video games, decks of cards, inflatable balls (small beach balls), paddle balls, hacky sacks, frisbees..
Disposable cameras. One or two at a time. Send them with return envelopes with pre-paid postage so there is no excuse not to ship them home. Send them with a note telling your Marine you will send pictures of his friends, etc., at home as soon as you get his pictures of his new life! It never fails. Give a camera to his best friend and ask the friend to take pictures of the neighborhood, their friends, whatever.
Film for their camera, batteries for all their toys!
Pictures after pictures - they can never get enough pictures. Send a small album (to hold 4x6 pictures) for them to keep the pictures safe and handy!
News clippings...they really love to hear about what's going on at home, even if it's the local boy scout meeting!!!! Electronic games (with batteries), card games, newspapers, magazines, (one mom said the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated was well received), paperbacks, puzzles...
Envelopes (some stamped and addressed to MOM), paper, and stamps, a nice reliable pen. Fill up a small organizer with addresses of family and friends, and print some pre-addressed labels with those important addresses for your Marine to use.
Homemade calendars with important family dates, half-way days, return dates, family birthdays and anniversaries, pet birthdays, local event dates, MOTHER'S DAY!! If you are not particularly comfortable with creating this project, some print shops, like Kinkos, will make calendars from your pictures.
Pillowcases!! With Pictures!!! Using a special paper, you can use a scanner to create iron-on transfers of his/her favorite pictures. You can find the paper at fabric, craft or quilt stores. It may not hold up well to repeated washings so you might want to make a few! How about some with seasonal themes?
Heavy Duty Spray Starch (they use a lot of this), laundry detergent, powdered bleach, shoe brushes, black shoe polish, black dress socks (for graduation).
Fun and Education on the Computer
For those Marines who have a laptop or access to a computer ...
Music software, games, educational software, typing (keyboarding) programs.
A delightful hint from a creative mom......
Easter baskets - "We included a stuffed chick that said "Happy Easter" along with lots of candy and a collapsed cardboard basket. I was very surprised that the chick made it home as I was sure it would go overboard after one too many "Happy Easters". Seems like anything is loved even if they get teased a little - they know it's because we love them."
Christmas stockings stuffed full, collapsible Christmas trees, fruitcake (travels well)..
Trick-or-treat bags with Halloween candy, inexpensive spooky sounds tape, one of those 59 cent paper pumpkins to "decorate" their room.
If you have to get money to your Marine quickly, wiring it is the fastest and most secure. You can call 1-800-325-6000 for locations and prices or check them out at (you guessed it)
The least expensive way to send money is to take cash to the nearest agent, and your Marine will have their money available in seconds. You can also charge the amount to a credit card by phone, but this costs more and takes a little longer.
Birthday-in-a-box. Include balloons, small party favors, hostess cupcakes with a candle that sings "happy birthday", party napkins, have some fun here - toss in a disposable camera and tell them to take a picture of their "party"!
Great cake idea! Press warm caramel treats or Rice Krispie treats (takes two batches) into a buttered (or use Pam) bundt or angel food cake pan, press down firmly and remove when cool. Decorate by drizzling melted chocolate wafers, which come in many colors, or melted chocolate chips over the top. Add more decorations by "gluing" on candy decorations using more of the melted chocolate and coating the backs of the candies. Some suggestions are the candy cake decorations that come on cardboard, M&Ms, sprinkles, gummys, - get creative! The creative mom who sent in this tip has sent them all over the country and not had any problems. Wrap the finished cake in wax paper so the decorations don't stick, then in plastic wrap, then in foil. Pop some air popped popcorn (popcorn popped in oil could get rancid and make an oily mess of the box), put a few inches in the bottom of the box, add the cake and then more popcorn. Don't use too big a box or you will be popping all night!
Regular Mail - Sending Packages
For individual questions about regular mail, you can visit the U.S. Post Office web site at http://www.usps.gov/
You will find definitions for various classes of mail and information on international mail. If you select "Search" at the top you will see a breakdown of available services.
There are Express boxes available at the post office for free - one mom just goes in with her items to send, fills up an express box and mails it off! Express mail offers guaranteed overnight delivery 365 days a year, and is of course, more expensive. Please remember, Express guarantees to the base, not necessarily to your Marine! Mail is distributed through the base mail system after that and may be delayed depending on where your Marine is.
If your Marine is anticipating a change of bases, tell them to save those care package boxes you mailed, because boxes may be at a premium when moving time comes!
E-mail access seems to vary by assignment location and job description. Some Marines have a computer available where they work, and some who are assigned for long periods in one place can get internet access in their room. Laptops seem to be the preferred computer because of their size and portability. Other possible locations for e-mail access are USOs and some libraries. Many Marines deployed on ships also have e-mail options open to them. Tell your Marine to keep asking at a new base until they find a computer they can access!
Most suggested that the best type of account is a free "hotmail" account that your son or daughter can access all around the world! With a "hotmail" account your Marine does not need their own computer. They just access hotmail.com and retrieve and send their messages from any computer.
One parent wrote in; "You can set up an e-mail address for your Marine at hotmail.com. It is free. Then send them an e-mail so they get your address right away. Only drawback is that once the account is opened, it needs to be accessed within 4 or 5 days, or it will be canceled. But, there is a way around that. Once you have the e-mail address set up for them, exit hotmail.com then go back in as if you were your Marine! After all, you made up the account so you know their sign-on and their password."
Send your Marine a blank diskette so they can type up letters at their own convenience and copy them into their e-mail messages when they get on the internet. They can also copy the messages they receive and put them on their own computer, to read at their leisure.
Arrange to meet your Marine on a private chat room and talk for hours for free!
Companies like Gateway have given some Marines a loan for a laptop computer.
Phone Calling/Calling Cards
Phone Card Information:
Phone cards are a convenient way for you to keep in contact with your Marine. There are three issues for you to consider.
First, how much should you pay per minute? Many parents suggested different cards and various places to buy phone cards. The lowest priced cards were found at discount warehouse stores like CostCo or Sam's Club. These stores have both offered cards for 10 cents a minute. Use the 10 cent a minute gauge to determine the value of the cards you see for sale all over. Keep your eyes open, the cards are available in a variety of places for as much as 25 cents a minute. One parent reported finding a card to purchase at a gas station for 5-7 cents a minute! Keep looking!
Second, are they rechargeable? Rechargeable cards allow you to dial in, give the card number, and charge more time using a credit card. No more sending cards! One parent suggested you negotiate with your Marine how often you are willing to recharge their card for them!!!
Third, can they be used internationally? If your Marine is headed overseas the card will use up at more money per minute, depending on the distance, but at least they have a way to call.
One parent recommended that when deployed, she ordered phone cards via the AT&T 1-800 number and then e-mailed the access numbers to the ship so they do not have to wait 4 weeks or more to get the actual card. They can buy them on ship but they were frequently out of them for weeks at a time - and of course Marines are frequently out of money so this worked well and assured that more phones calls were made home.
Home Phone Options
Again, many services are available all over the U.S., so your best bet is checking with your local phone companies to see what they offer. Ask for long distance options, 800 number options, and international plans for those of you with Marines overseas.
Check out AOL long distance. One parent reported a rate of 9 cents a minute and the advantage of being able to check your bill at any time online.
Another reported a Sprint 800# for $3.00 per month, 15 cents per minute. Also a Sprint plan where you pay $25.00 monthly and when your Marine calls you can call him back and talk as long as you want all weekend for free. This is great for little brothers and sisters to use.
These services change as competition grows and the communication world shrinks - keep your eyes open to new plans!
Airline tickets are available for ordering via the internet and your Marine can pick them up at the counter.