JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- The deadline is fast approaching. If you'd like to give a soldier a gift for Christmas, you have until December 11th to make sure it arrives by Christmas day. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers will serve overseas this holiday season. Commanders said all gifts given to service members are appreciated.
UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service are seeing a large number of gifts being sent overseas this year. Tim Nix, an employee at UPS, said people shouldn't wait until the last minute to ship an item into a war zone.
Before giving a soldier a piece of home, there are a few things you need to know about shipping to the military.
The military's post office can handle gifts at a cheaper price. To ensure your package makes it before the Christmas holiday, ship it as soon as possible. You'll also be required by the military to fill out a U.S. Customs form.
"It's a one page deal where you do have to list all of the items you're sending and their value. Everything has to itemized out and then you simply sign that and it goes with the box," said Nix.
"You never knew what was going to happen. You just had to be prepared for whatever comes your way and deal with it as it came at you," said Staff Sergeant Kevin Turner with the 875th.
Members of the 875th Engineer Battalion said getting items from back home helped them make it through 15 months of war.
"To me it meant that the people at home were still thinking about us. That we're not here just fighting for a lost cause. People appreciated what we were doing for them," said Turner.
"We were always getting packages, sometimes from people we didn't even know. The giving was far better than we ever imagined," said Staff Sergeant Patrick Hart with the 875th.
Hart and Turner were responsible for clearing roads of any explosive materials. When they'd get off of a shift, they'd be thrilled to see something from back home.
"There were days it did because it was exciting to get mail. Because there would be sometimes 2 or 3 days where there was no mail, and then you'd have 2 packages waiting on you there," said Turner.
"I had some troops, of all things, they got guitar hero. And that was huge in the downtime to see 4 or 5 guys, and it was nice, you know. It was something that kind of takes your mind away because you're so focused on the game," said Hart.
"I can remember 1 particular gift, a lady from Minnesota of all places, got my name from some list from someone up there. And she sent me a box of very high quality items. I would imagine the price range to about $350. It was shaving cream, razors, all kinds of candies. From here in this local community, I had ladies from churches send cookies, and that's always nice. I mean, you can't get home cooking over there," said Hart.
The gifts also went a long way in bringing the overall morale of the troops up. Commanders said the thought that the American people backed you during war made the job much easier.
"Christmas time and throughout the whole year, Arkansas has really been great as far as sending stuff. We always had care packages from different organizations and always had plenty of mail," said Captain Tim Norman with the 875th.
Most items sent to soldiers serving overseas are practical. Norman said the force loves trail mix. It is also the time of year when you can send food products that would normally melt, such as chocolate.
"I can speak for Charlie Company out of Paragould and the most important thing I can say about them is their motivation. They really kept a strong work ethic and good motivation. Their spiritual aspect was so strong, and they stayed motivated the entire time we were in Iraq," said Norman.
"When you're home, it's always nice to get a card or something like that. But when you're out in Iraq and you don't have that physical connection, you don't get to see your family every day. It's quite nice to get a gift such as a parcel," said Hart.
"Every day when they came, it was like Christmas, or if you knew you had somebody that wasn't getting any mail, you would give yours to them, because you had another one coming somewhere. So it would brighten somebody's day always," said Turner.
"To the families that are out there that don't know what to get, it really doesn't matter. I mean, everybody likes to get something. It doesn't have to be of any cost. I mean, it's definitely the thought that counts. If you put forth that action, it's going to reap the rewards," said Hart.
To learn more about shipping gifts to service members overseas, click on any of the links below.