2013 Holiday Care Package Shipping Dates

So whether you’re shipping a real Christmas tree to your loved one, a cake in a jar or a full stocking of goodies you’ll need to know the following information to make sure that it all gets there as close to when Santa sends everyone else their gifts.

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10
Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AE ZIP 093

Priority Mail Express Military Service: N/A

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-3

Priority Mail: Dec-3

APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AA ZIP 340

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966

Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec-17

First Class Letters/Cards: Dec-10

Priority Mail: Dec-10

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How to ship care packages

It can be nerve racking to ship anything overseas especially if there are precious items of comfort and love inside that can be pretty pricey to stock then ship.

Did you know? The Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $14.85. The price includes a $2 per box discount for military mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.

Did you know?  The Postal Service created a FREE “Military Care Kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families.

The kit contains:

  • Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes.
  • Priority Mail tape.
  • Priority Mail address labels.
  • Appropriate customs forms.To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing, and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm. To order flat-rate boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo, go to store.usps.com.

    To address the package, follow the instructions below:

    1. Write out the service members full name in the address

    2. Include the unit and APO/FPO/DPO address with the 9-digit ZIP Code (if one is assigned). For example:

    CPT JOHN DOE
    UNIT 2050 BOX 4190
    APO AP 96278-2050

    SGT ROBERT SMITH
    PSC 802 BOX 74
    APO AE 09499-0074

    SEAMAN JOSEPH SMITH
    USCGC HAMILTON
    FPO AP 96667-3931

    MSG JANE DOE
    CMR 1250
    APO AA 09045-1000

    3. Make sure to include a return address.

Afghanistan 2011…

Well our friends and some very close people which we consider family recently found out their deployment schedule has been altered to have them headed to Afghanistan in a few short months. Personally I’m apprehensive and nervous as any loved one would be whenever finding out this kind of news.
After Anthony and I have both talked about the subject we’ve come to the conclusion that it is what it is, he wishes he could go with his brothers (typical Marine) and we will always be around to help with whatever the wives or Marines need to get through this battle ahead. I told Anthony it is going to be extremely hard for me to not be 100% in the Family Readiness program this time around so I will help where I can via MarineParents.com through forums and chatrooms, Facebook pages, and my personal emails. I am sure that there will be Town Hall Meetings, Meeting Minutes posted online, Seminars, and other information passed on through the Battalion Facebook page but I know not everyone has a Facebook page and sometimes even internet access.
I do know that the greatest support that my families always had was each other though. Last few deployments together we have created an outstanding web of information that because of dedicated wives and parents have grown to include families, friends and supporters nowhere near Camp Pendleton. I do hope this connection continues since everyone will need this level of support now more than ever. We want to help put together care packages, buy these guys the best socks from Covert Threads and any other gear or comforts from home they’ll need.
We’ll be at the send off and homecoming events for the guys and support for the parents and wives as well. If it’s only for picture takers and huggers we’ll be there. We will be here to keep our families spirits as high as possible to try and ease any tension and anxiousness. Let us know if we can help with any advice such as postal regulations, deadlines for special dates, addresses, care pkg ideas, the latest innovative gear, battalion events, ect.
I encourage everyone to cherish this time together and make as many happy moments as possible before these guys leave our great country to do the hardest jobs known to man in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Take care of yourself and take care of each other…

Care Packages during the Holidays

So the time has come to focus on the holidays! Christmas is typically the main event so I wanted to keep it limited to that for now. For my ladies and gentlemen who have loved ones overseas on watch this one is mainly for you. Besides keeping their presents under the tree for months or doing a Christmas in Julys.  What else can you do?

Last two deployments I became known as the ‘Care Package Queen’ because of Gaby.  I sent at least one almost every week or every other week.  It kept me busy, entertained and always thinking of something new to send him. I sent everything from the usual trail mix to specialized items like Covert Thread Socks (www.covertthreads.com) which specializes in every climate kind of socks and undergarments for military and law enforcement imaginable. The thing to do now a days is to completely customize the box inside.  Thanks to websites like Pinterest there is always some new DIY project that would show him how unique and awesomely creative you are!  If you have kiddos don’t forget to get them in on the action! 🙂

The USPS Holiday delivery dates are about to be here so I hope everyone is prepared!

2010 USPS Holiday Timelines
Addressed To                          Express Mail®/ First-Class Mail®/Priority Mail/Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092  Dec 18/////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093           N/A//////////////////Dec 4///////////////////Dec 4////////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098  Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340           Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966  Dec 18///////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12

This time of year I love MarineParents.com since there is a Care Package Idea for every occasion. Need a way to warm them up, Patriotic theme, Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, Poker Party ideas or anything like that?! Go there! I will put some on here for ideas and I typically brainstorm off of their ideas posted. Some of these items is a given and I sent them more than once and on a pretty regular basis as he needed them. I used an Excel Spreadsheet so I knew what I sent the last time and didn’t send the same thing over and over or if he didn’t need it or like it then I would know not to send it again.

Warm Them Up:
Hot Tamales, flamin’ hot Cheetos, hot sauce, hot nuts, cajun spices, Fritos and Jalapeno Dip, Atomic Fire Balls, Cinnamon Gum, Red Hots, Hot-Flavored Planters Peanuts, Mini bottles of hot sauce, Cinnamon TicTacs, Icy/Hot Sore Muscle Rub, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Andy Capp Red Hot Fries, Jalapeno Jelly Belly Beans, a Hot Rod magazine and Tums

Cold Season:
some cough drops, kleenex, tea, instant noodle soup, hot chocolate,

Christmas Ideas:
those little Christmas trees that they sell in all of the mail order catalogs (Lillian Vernon, Oriental Trading Company, etc.) that come with their own ornaments, mini Christmas stockings, candy canes, little candy bags of coal (bubble gum ones), the green and red M&Ms for the holidays, an Advent Calendar. There are also little pine trees (about 4″ tall) that have a mineral solution on them. You add water to the little base, and these color mineral salts “grow” on the tree and look like colored snow and decorations. Of course this all depends on where your Marine/Sailor is stationed at because if he is out patrolling in Afghanistan he can’t carry a Christmas tree around with him but if he is on a MEU out in WESTPAC or somewhere then it might be easier for the guys to put up and maintain your holiday decorations.

And my favorite trick of the trade is Cake in a Jar!

CAKE IN A JAR
It’s basically a mini cake inside of a mason jar. It arrives moist and fresh and tasty!
Here’s how to make them: Get wide-mouth canning jars. You can find them at Walmart, other stores, or online. Boil the jars to sterilize.

1 package of cake mix or any cake recipe

1. Make the cake batter according to the instructions or recipe
2. Grease the jar by liberally spraying the inside with cooking spray
3. Fill jar no more than 1/2 way with batter
4. Place jars on cookie sheet on rack in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean @ 400 degrees
5. While baking, boil jar lids in a pan of water
6. When cake is done, take on jar out at a time and cover with hot lid. Screw on jar ring tightening it slightly
7. The lid will seal as it cools. Listen to hear the “ping” as they seal.
8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s ok; it just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.
9. DO NOT FROST cake in the jar! Send frosting along.
10. Make sure you wrap the jars well (bubble wrap is preferable, but wadded newspaper or clothing and other items will pad it too)

Don’t forget to include a couple of plastic knives for the frosting and some plastic forks.

Even if you don’t have a Marine or Sailor overseas you can still contribute to their holidays at http://www.carepackageproject.com/sponsor.asp for only $22 or the USO at https://www.uso.org/DonateHolBrandCPDD2010.aspx?src=WH10CPDD10 for only $25. There are so many outstanding organizations who help our Marines and Sailors out there and even ones who are here injured like the Wounded Warrior Project and Semper Fi Funds.

I LOVE this time of year since everything cool is during this month! No seriously, my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my husbands’ birthday, our anniversary and even my dog’s birthday is ALL in this month (Amber’s is 11/29 but still a Sagittarius lol)! Ladies if your husband is home have fun ordering him around for once and having him hang lights on the roof, get tangled up in the inflatable characters and try figuring out where to plug in all of the extenstion cords.  Deck the halls, sing Christmas carols, volunteer for the elderly or needy and just enjoy the family time together.  Hold your family a little tighter this year because as I’ve said before there are many out there who won’t ever get a chance to do so again. Hope I didn’t miss anything on the list above!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Getting through Deployment Tips…

We only really feel alone when we’re left with our thoughts and insecurities. It’s hard to forget our sorrows and go on with life while our Marines are away.  None of us are made of stone, brick or are superhuman. We are not born equipped to deal with everything that the Marine Corps will throw at us. The key to emotionally dealing with deployments is developing survival, social and coping skills to weather the tough times .
As Marine wives we stand on the tarmacs, in airports, piers and in parking lots waving goodbye to our Marines with a heavy heart. Have you ever had the moment where it feels like time has stopped and we’re just waving and waving until they’ve gone out of sight or can’t see us anymore?
Reality hits home the second he gets orders for a deployment, then again when he leaves for the bus, dock or air station. You can and will feel alone. Not all of us have biological immediate family members close or even in the same state as your duty station.  It is completely normal and can be a little more than overwhelming but try not to feel too down about the situation. This is when our friends and Marine Corps family comes in handy during those first few days when you can’t get out of bed, off the couch or out of the fridge. When you are so sad and depressed that you’re heart is literally breaking for fear of the unknown, lack of control and the many dangerous possibilities out there. We wait for our men not because we want to or have to. We wait for our men because we are mentally strong enough for this job. Not every lady is and that’s okay this is truly a hard pill to swallow but they love their jobs and us; so we shouldn’t be the ones to come in between the two passions in their life.  And so we support and love them.  We do so because in the pit of our stomachs there’s a strong and unbreakable love, appreciation and affection for these amazingly masculine yet soft hearted individuals. There is just an overwhelmingly powerful and soul warming flow which is the strength that helps us get through those sometimes hollow days and lonely nights. The dark, cold and lonesome nights at times seem to never end and are enough to make wives forgo their own beds and sleep on loveseats, futons or with the kids.  Irregular communication wherever they are does not aid in the sad and lonely days at all. :/
Unless you intend to go back to your home state during his deployments which a lot of wives do we have to rely on each other for support. Moving back home can be a good idea to save the BAH money but you run the risk of being far away from your duty station and possibly having pay issues you can’t deal with, possibly not getting vital deployment information as well as not participating in events the command holds during the deployment.
One of the many misconceptions about deployments a lot of wives, girlfriends, mothers, and family members have is that your husband will call, email or write everyday or even every other day. Some have been known to try & contact the command, the hotel the men are staying at port in or try and guilt trip their husbands into calling them often.  These women get upset whenever the Marines do not get to call, email or Skype as much as they believe he should.  Ladies I know this is 2010 but as I was told by my senior peers many times before they are working and will call you the second they get a free moment to do so. Meu’s (ships) are a little more consistent but there is always going to be times when they can’t. Like during Rivercity. It’s not a location it is what the military considers times whenever there is an issue during the deployment and for everyone’s safety they cut off all communication outgoing until the issue has been resolved. There are hundreds if not thousands of people on any one deployment so a 5 minute phone call for every one of them is a strategic undertaking for the command.
Hopefully you will get to have dozens of phone calls, emails, video teleconferences set up by the command team, and even possibly Skype with your Marine. I hope you learn any tricks of the trade (each ship, crew and command is different) very quickly and not at the very end of the deployment. I had Anthony email my text message service on my phone so it was more like texting and I’d get it almost immediately versus an email. After I realized how inconvenient it was to do this I ended up upgrading my phone to a blackberry so that I could get emails and phone calls without delay. Typically what we would do is I’d have to be quick but if I was awake we’d email back and forth. I once found out almost half way through a deployment that through Yahoo there is a video web chat option where the Marines could see us but we couldn’t see them. As weird as it feels to look at a black screen they felt comforted and a little closer to home.
The strong productive wives learn to busy themselves and keep their positive fellow Marine Corps wives around to buy time. Deployments are full of emotional highs and lows and in the family readiness classes you will learn quite a bit about this. Even for seasoned wives at first you will feel inconsolable, rotten and just want to be glued to the floor. Find a source of strength to vent and relate to whether it’s another Marine wife, your dogs, MarineParents.com, Facebook Marine Corps pages or other Marine Corps wives websites. The main trick is after the initial shock and sadness set a goal (re-decorate your house, learn to sew, learn a new language, take a college course, dancing class, cooking/baking class or teach yourself, make a new margarita every night or taste a new wine, learn the different city parks or beaches in the area) but whatever you do just have fun and take everything one day at a time!
 (Cheesecake making for the first time & My new flower garden during a deployment!!! :P)
After a little while your strength will increase and you’ll be able to function outside of the home without succumbing to tears at the first patriotic song that comes on the radio, overly exaggerated newscast, or phone call where someone mentions your Marine’s name. You’ll eventually find yourself in a groove and routine of cleaning, exercising, planning, shopping, kids, dog walking, gardening, wine tasting, cooking and learning new recipes, ect. About a month before he comes home you’re in high spirits and in homecoming mode of banner/sign making, flag buying, fridge stocking and deep cleaning. He gets here and you’re on top of the world in another honeymoon phase and so in love. You realize quickly he can’t load a dishwasher to save his life, he puts the ketchup in the pantry and not the refrigerator, makes insanely huge messes everywhere and doesn’t remember to put the laundry in the dryer but he is back home and ALL YOURS!! So now to create a whole new routine and schedule!  And once again the emotional cycle begins again but it is all worth it because you have your man home and have survived this deployment!

Another Deployment?!

My husband, Anthony had some big news even before his MEU deployment was over. Out of the thirteen hundred or so in the battalion from the MEU (ship) deployment my husband volunteered along with almost two hundred more to go to Afghanistan to assist another battalion. He didn’t even ask me before saying YES to his CO!
Through spending so much time on the MEU deployment learning from seasoned Marine Wives I’d learned to just be supportive even in times of stress & concern.  So I wasn’t necessarily mad just tried to be supportive yet I was worried.  What is a good Marine Corps wife to do though? I knew that would be an option sooner or later and possibly numerous times, he is a grunt and therefore trained from the beginning in war tactics and was anxious to use his skills in real life. He lived for this and wanted to do his part to help. I didn’t have a choice but to say, “go get ‘em” when he called and needed to hear my approval and support for him. He wanted to know I was behind him and would always be so I swallowed any anxiousness, fear and dread and did just that. My only comfort was that it wasn’t supposed to be another full 6 or 7 month deployment. It was only going to be for four months.
Before & throughout the MEU deployment I’d gotten to know his higher up’s and knew they had been there before.  I knew they were the best the battalion had to do this mission.
Because of the seriousness of the situation, we decided to go back to Texas for a few days on his leave period to tell the parents and family face to face. We gathered them all together for dinner at a restaurant (public place so no one could freak out, faint or scream) and let them all in on Anthony’s next deployment. No one screamed, fainted or freaked out, it was just a silence and palpable sense of worry in the room.
They all had questions and concerns about everything and wanted to know more information which we didn’t really have. Anthony simply promised that I would keep everyone informed as much as possible just like I always had while helping the Family Readiness Officer for his unit. When information came in and was relevant, I passed it along to them.
This was just the beginning of the stress we would all undertake during the supposedly short Afghanistan deployment…

Crystal’s First ‘official’ Deployment…Anchor’s Away

The summer of 2009 was over and the MEU (ship) deployment was coming fast and I had to do something!  I eventually got the opportunity to volunteer more and more for the Family Readiness Officer of Anthony’s unit. Keeping busy during the deployment was my coping method. Organizing things for and working with others helped me not focus every little stressor during Anthony’s absence that were not within my reach and that I couldn’t control.
Anthony’s unit was going to be part of a Battalion Landing Team or BLT. Not quite like a BLT sandwich but it is exactly as it sounds a big mess of all MOS’s (jobs) put together on several ships to tour the seas for different reasons.
There are several ships in a BLT/MEU situation & some had just sailed and one had to stay back for repairs.  We had been all ready for him to leave.  During departure & arrival times rumors fly & some of them were that they would be gone 12 months and not 6 and another was that the broken ship would not go at all.
I tried to avoid that nonsense & kept a level head & focused on simple things.  Thankfully he was on the broken ship so got additional time together!  We didn’t really know when he was going to have to go but we knew it was coming up fast.
Early one morning Anthony called me after being at work for an hour and said “we’re leaving”. I didn’t really know what to think and how serious to take him since that can mean anything from don’t plan for the BBQ this weekend to don’t make the lasagna tonight.  This time we a couple hours notice of this deployments departure. Right after he called the plan was for him to head home, pick up his gear and us to head back to his work and wait around while he prepared for the bus ride to the ship.
So this was it.  It was our big day and the big emotional roller coaster moment. This was my first time experience since I’d never been to a send off, deployment day, or anything. When I lived in Texas & he had deployed before we typically said goodbye at the airport and I’d go back to my normal or should I say (maybe not so normal) Geo-Bachelor life.  I didn’t know what to expect, how to feel, how not to feel, how to react, how NOT to react, ect. I knew it was going to be sad because of his absence and missing the upcoming holidays. I also knew that I was a semi-strong and independent person and he was just going on a ship for 6 months or so and that I shouldn’t be too overwhelmed or overemotional. I knew we’d have email, Skype, phone calls and mail so this should be a cake walk. Right?!
I may have had a false sense of self because I knew I’d have Stacie, Maggie & all the volunteer work to fall back on.  Thank goodness Maggie went through all of this with me and we both had each other to talk to, vent to, drink wine with and complain about the house falling apart because the men left. I believe the kids were able to cope better since Maggie’s kids and so many other military families kids were going through the same feelings at the same time all in our little military community bubble.
The unit held a send off at the UMA lot (basically a huge parking lot) filled with 7 tons, busses, Marines, family members, kids, dogs and friends not ready to say their goodbyes just yet. We waited for hours and hours while gear was loaded, signs were painted and coffee was brewed. People had started leaving, the tears were falling, and the last kisses for months had begun. I had helped set up, clean up as the evening wore on, painted signs and spoken to all my company wives I knew and tried to assure them they’d be getting the latest information from our FRO and command ASAP.
Anthony pulled me aside and told me that he felt it was time for me and the girls to go home. It was getting late, they were about to leave anyway and there was nothing more for me to do there. All of a sudden that was when the unexpected waterworks hit me.  I didn’t know why I was crying.  Didn’t I just say I was strong?  Damnit.  It really hurt to know that he wouldn’t be coming home with us, eating dinner with us, going to the movies with us and Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. I was sad, hurt, mad at the Marine Corps, and kind of scared. Scared for what? I thought maybe the bus wouldn’t make it, that he’d get hurt on the ship, that he’d not get along with his co-workers aboard the ship, that he’d get hurt on missions when he got overseas, he’d get sick again with pneumonia, swine flu again or bronchitis again. There were so many insecurities I had about the whole situation.

11th MEU

Now I know all of those last minute and unexpected emotions are normal. We’d prepared diligently for the deployment by preparing our families, organizing Wills, Powers of Attorney, passwords, ect.  Yet, I couldn’t control and secure was my husband’s safety and health. To make matters even more emotional the ship stayed docked overnight and I persuaded Maggie to come to the send off with me at a rally point for the unit.
With time though I eased up on my anxiousness thanks to Maggie, the FRO, my RBE (Remain Behind Element) co workers and friends because I think it would have turned into an obsession to know how he is, where he is, what he’s doing, what he’s not doing, ect.
All of these emotions were just the send off….oh goodness Help ME!