Pack it up! Postal Service helping families get packages overseas

15 Oct 2004 | Cpl. Micah Snead

Family members looking to show some love to their deployed Marines or Sailors can now receive free packing materials from the U.S. Postal Service.

This offer is intended for military spouses or dependents trying to send care packages to their deployed service members.

“It’s a small way to help but it can go a long way,” said Susan Harris, customer service representative, U.S. Postal Service. “We have had a tremendous response. Hardly a day goes by without someone new calling for information.”

After calling a toll-free number, family members can receive up to 25 Priority Mail boxes, mailing labels, customs forms and a roll of box tape. The boxes are available in medium or large sizes. From there, the only restrictions are how much love can fit into a box, according to Harris.

“The maximum weight for Priority Mail is 70 pounds,” Harris said. “You can get a lot of things into these boxes but, care packages don’t have to be big to be important.”

The customs forms are important for mailing items to an Army/Air Force Post Office or Fleet Post Office (APO/FPO) address. The Postal Service also requires hand delivery of packages being sent to APO/FPO addresses.

“The customs forms must be included with packages sent to APO/FPO,” Harris said. “The sender needs to list everything in the package and mark it as a ‘bona fide gift’ on the form.”
Sending packages as USPS Priority Mail may also mean it will get to a service member sooner than other classes and postal services. Once mail arrives at an East or West Coast APO/FPO facility, the military takes over delivery.

Letters are given top priority. Packages sent through Priority Mail are next down the line. Once the mail arrives in country it is all treated the same regardless of class. Packages normally take 20 to 30 days to arrive in deployed areas. Priority Mail is always assured of being flown to it’s location while packages sent through other parcel services may be shipped to their destination.

“As a general rule, Priority Mail is the best all-around option,” Harris said. “There is no guarantee that the package will get there sooner, but there is a high-likelihood of it.”

There are some guidelines to follow that can get the package overseas faster and safer, according to Harris.

“Everyone needs to be aware of what things are not allowed to be mailed, such as firearms and alcohol,” Harris said. “When in doubt, ask someone for help. It’s always better to use new, sturdy boxes with the clear packing tape.”

Veteran care package senders can be found in a unit’s Key Volunteer Network and post office employees can answer specific questions about how and what to send, according to Harris.

“If we can send 25 boxes that are going to be used to boost someone’s morale, it is a privilege,” Harris said. “We want everyone to know that these materials are available, and all they need is to be filled with love.”

To receive the free packing materials, call (800) 610-8734, press “1” for English or “2” for Spanish, then “3” to speak to an operator.