Deployed servicemembers love getting care packages. In many cases, it doesn’t matter what’s inside; just having the chance to hold something that came from the folks back home is enough to make any servicemember feel more connected and loved. Care packages can also be a big morale booster. They’re physical reminders that people on the other side of the world care.
In in this article, we talk a lot about what’s okay to include in a care package.
But be careful: There are plenty of items that you can’t (and sometimes shouldn’t) send. Before you pull out your wallet and start spending your hard-earned cash, on care package items for your deployed loved one, spend a few minutes going over this list of prohibited items.
The following are prohibited by postal regulations, whether you’re sending a package to your next door neighbor or half a world away.
- Carbonated beverages (may explode during transit)
- Drugs or narcotics
- Explosives or fireworks
- Firearms and ammunition
- Flammable items
- Fresh fruits or vegetables
- Lithium batteries
- Live plants
- Precious metals or large quantities of cash (hopefully you wouldn’t be sending this anyway)
- Products in aerosol cans (may explode during transit)
The U.S. Post Office has a list of standard prohibited and restricted items that you may want to check out before you tape up your package.
Many other countries don’t share—or even particularly care for—our culture. So when sending packages to servicemembers deployed to or stationed in another country, it’s best to find out what (in addition to the above items) would be confiscated or possibly even land your loved one in hot water.
These may include:
- Pork products or byproducts
- Images of objects that might be considered obscene, pornographic, immoral, or sexually suggestive (this includes photographs or drawings of nude or semi-nude people)
- Unauthorized political material
- Printed material that is contrary to the Islamic faith or that would be offensive to Arabs and/or Muslims
- Radio receivers or transmitters
- Radioactive material
- Religious items in bulk (you can bring whatever you want as long as it’s for personal use; a crate of bibles would be a big problem)
Most countries have their own restrictions on what can and can’t be shipped in. In most cases, their lists resemble the top list above. Sometimes, though, you’ll find some really odd—but potentially important—prohibitions. For example:
- Measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law (France)
- Musical cards that play a sound when opened (Bulgaria)
- Pistol-shaped articles such as toy guns (India)
- Playing cards (Denmark)
- Police whistles (Guatemala)
- Prison-made good (Ireland)
- Radar detectors (Switzerland)
- Saccharine tablets or packets (France)
- Switchblade knives (Jamaica)
The U.S. Post Office has a list of prohibited and restricted items by country that you should spend some time looking at.
The list of items we’ve discussed here is by no means an exhaustive one. However, depending on the branch of service and/or where your loved one is stationed, what his or her mission is, and the preferences of the unit commander, other items may be off-limits as well.
When in doubt, ask your loved one. If that's not an option, get some advice from the spouse of someone else in your loved one's unit or someone else who’s been deployed to the same area, the chaplain, or rear detachment commander.
Edited and updated by Armin Brott, August 2016