We just sent our first care package of the holiday season to our soldiers overseas. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, using the website www.anysoldier.com to obtain the APO/FPO addresses of Marines and other service members who are busy protecting us halfway around the world. They are in places like Qatar, Djibouti, Kuwait, Jordan and Pakistan. And, of course, Afghanistan. Some of them are stationed aboard aircraft carriers and other giant ships, plying the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean for months on end. Some live in barracks, some in “cans” (shipping containers that are pushed together to form makeshift shelters) and others in two-man tents pitched somewhere on the desert sand or on a mountainside.
There are those who have been dispatched to parts unknown, servicemen like Sgt. Adrian Quinones and his crew, to whom we sent off our most recent package. Any Soldier labels these troops as “location undisclosed for security reasons.” You just have to know that these are the guards and sentries who perform reconnaissance missions in some of the most remote regions on earth. While some units live in encampments the size of small cities and request things like DVDs and X-Boxes, I feel most inclined to respond to the denizens of remote outposts who report “Dusty, sandy, no cooking abilities. Please send socks.”
I continue to be surprised by how many soldiers ask for food. Several years ago, I saw many requests for candy and Red Bulls. Now I’m seeing units asking for protein: Tuna packets, canned chicken, beef jerky, Balance Bars. One problem faced by these units is that they often must remain on patrol 24/7. Even if they are at a location where there is a chow hall, it is not likely to be open when they are relieved of duty for lunch at some ungodly hour like 2:30 in the morning. Then there are those that are out on days long two-man patrols in the middle of nowhere, carrying a pack with a canteen of water and a handful of MREs. I am told that these reconstituted meal packets (just add water) can be pretty disgusting, not to mention monotonous. You have to feel for a soldier who dreams of a can of Star-Kist or Bumble Bee.
We always remember to stick some cheap hand can openers in the box with our gifts of canned food. I hear that these packages are often air dropped into remote areas, and I don’t expect the recipients to have any means of opening cans at their immediate disposal. I recently read of a soldier who attempted to open a can of tuna from a care package with his knife. He ended up having to get stitches.
I can’t begin to imagine what our soldiers’ lives must be like over there. I beam with pride when I read “we can’t tell you what we’re doin’, but we’re doin’ it.”
I know you are, guys. Carry on.