April 20th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Care packages more important than fast food

The announcement by Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall of the International Security Assistance Force announced that fast-food offerings like Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Orange Julius were being shuttered inspired a lively debate about morale and the amenities afforded servicemen and women serving overseas - often in harm's way. Those affected, however, didn't seem very concerned.

"The big things that improve morale in a combat zone are lots of letters and packages from loved ones," Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch said.

The veterans and active-duty troops all said that access to healthy foods, local cuisine and packages of snacks sent by friends and family trumped military base fast food as morale boosters.

Especially appreciated in these care packages are sweet, sour, salty and spicy condiments, such as Tabasco, sugar packets and seasoned salts for enlivening the military's frequently derided Meals Ready to Eat - individually packaged rations for service members stationed away from meal preparation facilities.

Read more on the troops reaction to the closings

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Troops
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. CG

    My son is at Camp Bastion. I thought I would list all the things I have learned that are greatly desired by everyone serving over there. There may be more that I haven't heard about but here is what I know:
    books (mysteries, action, thrillers (vampire stuff), science fiction) great distractions
    magazines: sports, travel, car/truck, motorcycle, game, computer/electronics
    dvd's: while not everyone has a laptop, I understand that the one's who have them try to share. Laptops can play movies and they are one of the best ways to remember being back home
    sports: footballs, frisbees, soccer balls (nothing light weight like beach balls-wind takes them)
    chap stick and sun block (non-shiny and colorless) I've heard Mary Kae chap stick is the best.
    socks-"super wicking" kind (can be white)
    t-shirts (have to be olive drab)
    condiments: hot sauce is my son's favorite but anything to change flavors
    snacks: giant square boxes of Goldfish-extra flavor (last about 1 day)
    baby-wipes: you can find the wipes that don't say "baby" on them.....but these are great to wipe off the day's sand accumulation. Dollar stores have them in pop-top containers.

    I learned about the sports equipment from someone who was in Afghan for 2 years. He said the most popular thing in a box was a football. Every chance they got, everyone off duty would gather outside to throw the football around and for a while they could be home playing down at the neighborhood park. Please don't misunderstand my reference up above to "distraction". What these people do is all too real. Those of us who have never been overseas in the military can't begin to comprehend what they deal with every day. Most of them treasure the times when they can do things that remind them what it feels like to do "normal" things like read a book, throw a ball, play a game, watch a movie. For a little while....which is what eating a pizza or a DQ was all about......

    April 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SGT CJ

    As a veteran of OIF I can attest to the fact that a care package is worth 10 times more to a soldier than a Burger King burger or a piece of pizza from Pizza Hut. Not only do care packages provide soldiers with that "taste of home", but it reminds those soldiers that there are people at home who support them, who are thinking of them and praying for them., It also shows that these people not only express their support in words, but in their actions. They are willing to take time out of their day to gather care package items as well as package and ship them. But what we need to do is make sure that ALL deployed soldiers are receiving care packages from the States. Not everyone has family and friends who are willing or able to send their deployed soldier a care package, and just as receiving a package from home can be a huge morale boost to a soldier, NOT receiving any can be just as damaging to morale. Do whatever you can to help, please! There are many, many organizations out there putting care packages together for soldiers whom they do not even know. If you can assist, please do. As a soldier who has received a number of these care packages myself, I can tell you just how grateful we are for them. Please keep them coming and a big thanks to those of you who have lent so much support – of many different varieties – to servicemen and women and their families.

    April 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jewel

    Why would I worry about eating "healthy" when I could get killed at any moment. I say bring on the Dairy Queen. I would rather my last meal be a yummy cheeseburger than a crushed package of Twinkies.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Birthday Girl

    The Canadian government handles the delivery of care packages, mail, etc., from the families of the soldiers serving our country. They're sent from family/friends via the military (FOC) to military personnel in stationed in Afghanistan, etc. I've spoken with family members of military personnel, there doesn't seem to be a problem with this method of delivery as packages and mail are delivered regularly. Just a thought... I know the personnel serving our country certainly appreciate the contact with home.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DR

    I see no issue with the closing of fast food chains in "combat zones". First off the people out there on the front dont get that stuff, its the people in the huge bases with the running water, the showers,the Stores, the Chow halls that serve more than one meal aday that doesnt taste horrible, the big gyms. Im sure its nice to get fast food once inawhile but on any fob or cop ive been on ive never been afforded the oppertunity. Moral here is fine without the fast food. Keep the packages coming and everyone will be fine. as a veteran of OIF and OEF i say get rid of it all. Side note if you dont know there are now quite a few military appearence standards comming into effect because of all these people coming back over weight.. i wonder why

    April 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. USKiwi

    I send care packages through http://www.anysoldier.com and USPS has flat rate boxes which are great. You can also call USPS and get a 'MiliKit' sent to you with flat rate boxes, labels, customs forms and priority shipping tape at no cost. One of the most common requests are tuna packs and protein bars.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. 1LT

    Steve is absolutely correct. The majority of deployed troopes never get to experience the fast food joints located on the mega Airfields like BAF. At my COP, we barely have showers. I don't want to hear about all the Fobbits down in BAF living it up at the Dairy Queen. It's actually bad for morale.

    April 23, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. AC

    Oh...and the whole issue of not being able to ship supplies because of shipping burgers and pizza is hogwash! Those are contracted and not shipped by the military.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Karen Very Proud Marine Mom

    My son is in Afghanistan and has been there since the first of the year. I have sent out 21 care packages so far and my family has sent out a few as well. The last time I spoke to my son, around Easter. he had received 16 so far. The cost is only $12.50 per box but I would pay more if I had too. As far as the fast food places are concerned...yes it would be nice if on that rare opportunity my son gets a break he could enjoy some "junk fast food" but if it means that my son would have to wait for needed supplies because burgers or pizza is being shipped, well then I have a problem with that.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike in KC

    My son in in Afghan and I can certainly attest to the morale lift he and his squad get from packages and letters from home.....no suprise there. He has actually told us the Army mess hall chow isn't that bad and is sometimes pretty good! As to the commentary on sending packages, you can send a lot of stuff and it can weigh up to 20 lbs for $12.50 using USPS Priority Mail boxes. That is a pretty good value as far as I'm concerned considering it's traveling thousands of miles to a war zone and arrives in remote locations by helicopter where my son has been located. The Postal Service employees where I go could not be kinder and more helpful.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jb

    I forgot to add Cav units frequently leave the wire as well. And the people that have fought before me in prior wars and at the start of our 2 current ones had it way worse.

    April 21, 2010 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    I applaud the CSM's attempt to focus all personnel on the warfight. I don't think that there is any question that the soldiers and marines in theater are there to fight an enemy that demands their utmost attention. The fight must come first. Having said that, for those troops trapped inside installations, with no access to the people of Afghanistan, and no opportunity to break up their routine in any other way should have access to some simple amenities. Most readers don't understand two key points – 1) Most soldiers aren't allowed to move about Afghan communities, or to eat local food or interact with Afghans. and 2) there is a tremendous gap between those soldiers stationed at FOB's, literally living in bunkers, and the personnel stationed at KAF and BAF and in Kabul. I do think it is inappropriate to say that troops need to choose between care packages and these amenities. Our logistics systems can support both. Why would we cut corners supporting all of our troops?

    April 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kolawole Ajao

    Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch is absolutely correct. If I were in the Army and in war front I would appreciate more than anything letters, mementos from my archives sent to me, poems from my collections and any other true morale booster that would keep my spirit as high as heaven.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |