Special Note: Samantha Wagner sent me this article before she passed away from an embolism just hours after childbirth. You may have seen a post on our Facebook page about Samantha’s sudden passing. If you would like to support her active duty Marine and their two children, four year old Evie and newborn baby Remington, you may send your condolences on behalf of the family to Katie Wagner, 3750 N Blue Lake Road, Churubusco, IN 46723. It is our honor to publish this article posthumously on her behalf.
Deployments that take place over the holidays always seem, at least to me, to be even more difficult than the ones that don’t. Lovey-dovey Christmas songs and holiday cheer somehow make the absence of your deployed Marine even more painful. However, I think we, as military spouses, can easily overlook how difficult it must be to be the one deployed during the holidays.
I have my children and my family to sit around the Christmas tree with me, where my deployed husband does not. Having a few holiday deployments already under my belt, I’d like to share some of my favorite ways to send a bit of holiday spirit and cheer overseas to your deployed loved one. These are just a few ideas, as the list could go on forever! It’s easy to get the kids and other family members involved with these Christmas Care packages too!
- One of my favorite tricks is sending snow! Being from Indiana, my husband and I feel that Christmas just isn’t the same without a bit of the fluffy white stuff! As you can imagine, you’re not going to be able to package up any of the real stuff, but it is fun to fake it! Cut out a bag full of paper snowflakes (complete with glitter if you’d like) of all shapes and sizes, and send them overseas! My husband loved this so much that he kept a few of his favorites from the first holiday deployment and brought them home with him. We hang those on our Christmas tree every year, whether he is home or not!
- Of Course, Christmas cookies are a must! Here’s what I’ve learned: Some cookies travel better than others. Chocolate chip cookies don’t like to be mailed to Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, but sugar and gingerbread cookies usually do pretty well. Bake a big batch with your kids, decorate them, and send them on their way! I’ve found that wrapping cookies in wax paper (with wax paper in between each cookie) followed by a couple of layers of plastic wrap helps a lot., and sending them in an actual tin instead of a plastic container really does help keep them fresh. Also, be sure the cookies aren’t rolling around in the tin. If you need to add some packing peanuts or extra plastic wrap to keep them sturdy, do so! Then just put the whole tin in a shipping box and mail them out!
- Stocking Stuffers make for fun times! These can be loads of fun for your husband and the rest of the unit! During my husband’s first Christmas deployment, I went to the dollar tree and stocked up on candy (the kind that won’t melt) and all those fun little stocking stuffer toys! My husband’s favorite of the stocking stuffers were little Santa parachute men. He and his buddies had a blast throwing them off the roof of their compound during that first deployment, and I had a big smile on my face all season knowing he enjoyed it!
- Buy a little Christmas tree (try the dollar stores), decorate it with handmade or cheap ornaments, and wrap it with a little battery-powered strand of lights. What’s Christmas without a tree, right?
- Christmas cards are always welcome! Hallmark makes great new cards that you can record your own voices in. Have your kids (or yourself) record a special holiday message or sing a song on it before you send it!
- Send the smell of the season! Throw a bag of cinnamon pine cones or cinnamon sticks in your care package. Even better, make some cinnamon ornaments with your kids and put them in the care package to bring the smell of holiday cooking to your husband. (Do not send the cinnamon sticks/ornaments in with the same shipment as the cookies or all his cookies will taste like cinnamon).
- Pictures of course, and video if it’s possible (depending on the deployment), are some of the best ways to make your deployed one feel connected from so far away. Many bases offer free photos with Santa for the little ones, so hop on into the PX, and get a free photo to send to Daddy!
- Make a copy of your kids’ letter to Santa and send it (secretly, of course) to Daddy. When we did this, we were able to let Daddy be Santa and write a letter back! I simply removed it from the envelope he sent it in and placed it in a more secret-Santa type envelope before giving it to the kids.
- Never forget the age-old art of handwriting a letter. Handwriting a personal letter to your husband from just yourself might be exactly what he needs to put a Christmas smile on his face.
Note: It takes a while for mail to arrive during most deployments. Ideally, sending your packages as early as you possible will help them to arrive on time for Christmas. You can always ask your local postal office or UPS store for estimated arrival times. The Family Readiness Officer for your husband’s unit might also have information on the last date to send packages/letters in order for them to arrive by Christmas, so don’t be afraid to ask! We usually send our packages at the beginning of November, but absolutely no later than Thanksgiving!
There are so many creative ways to send love and Christmas cheer to your deployed spouse. It will never be as good as being home for Christmas, but it might help a little. So, use your imagination, get creative and festive, and send your Marine some Christmas spirit this year!