Supporting the Troops With Care Packages

Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.
The Citadel Heroes Project. Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.

We are approaching Thanksgiving time, and the time to send care packages to troops for the holidays.

At The Citadel a great volunteer effort was started several years ago to send boxes to deployed cadets and graduates, The Citadel Heroes Project.

I’ve written about this effort before. The time to send donations for their holiday mailing is now. Susie Maghakian of the Krause Leadership Center on campus is the staff coordinator for the project. Theresa Chamberlain is the parent of a graduate and is the current volunteer coordinator of the program.

For a list of suggested items you can visit the Citadel Family Association page for the project, just note that the contact information is out of date for Susie.

Please send your donations of items for the boxes, or a check for the postage made out to The Citadel Heroes Project, to:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 171 Moultrie Street, The Citadel Station, Charleston, SC  29409

or if you are sending items via UPS or other carrier use the physical address on campus:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 201 Richardson Ave, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409

Phone: 843-953-5815

People always ask what should be included in care packages. A general rule is not to send items that have a short shelf life. Mail can be delayed and items like home-baked good soften arrived spoiled.

If you Google “what to send a deployed soldier” quite a few sites with suggestions will pop up. Give 2 the Troops is one of many sites you will find that offer a list of items. I’ll include a few suggestions here, but please note this list is not exhaustive. If you know the person you are sending items to, ask them what they would like and would appreciate. Some units have ready access to day to day items, others do not.

Saran Wrap: I have recently learned that including a roll of saran wrap in a care package could help save a soldier’s life. In a recent email from a Citadel grad who is working as a contractor in Afghanistan he wrote: “Its use would be as an emergency field medical expedient dressing to wrap hastily around the chest of a torso-wounded teammate to prevent death by ‘sucking chest wound.’  Some SF medics I work with have recommended this technique.  I’m sure it would have other practical uses as well.”

Snacks: Individual packets of trail mix and nuts, granola bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, fruit leather, jerky, hard candy, chewing gum, small packets of cookies, individual serving containers of noodles. If they have access to a microwave the individual meals are great.

Beverage powder: Individual drink packets to be added to water – all flavors; hot chocolate packets; instant coffee; powdered creamer

Sauces: Dipping sauces from your local fast food store; hot sauces

Non food items: soft toilet paper, baby wipes, Q-Tips, in the winter month hand warmers, disposable razors, feminine hygiene products-if you know there are women in the unit

Personal care items (do not include in the same box as food): shampoo, shaving cream in squeeze tubes, liquid body soap, deodorant, sun screen

Homemade goodies: Cake in a Jar. You can find several recipes for this online. See this link for one recipe.

Other items: School supplies, like pencils, paper, crayons. These items are given to the local school children; wrapped candies

Socks, Underwear, T-Shirts : If you know the soldier and their sizes these items are appreciated. Covert Threads is a great resource for good socks for soldiers. THey have a buy 10 get three free policy which makes the socks even more affordable. It is a great option for groups sending items out.

Packing tips:

Take items and individual packets out of the box they came in and put them in a zip lock bag. You can fit more in a care package this way and the ziplock bag can be used for other things once the solder has the box. Plus, they have to burn their trash.

Do not mix scented items with food items.

If you try to send home-baked goods vacuum pack them.

Add some fun items like a deck of cards, photos of friends and family, letters and drawings from children, fun toys from the dollar store to blow off steam

I'm inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. Note the packets of oatmeal and breakfast bars (on the left side of hte photo) are repacked into ziplock bags. THe cardboard wrapping on the socks was removed before shipping them to Afghanistan. The clothing items were packed in vacuum bags so help get more into the boxes. photo by Stanley Leary
I’m inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. Note the packets of oatmeal and breakfast bars (on the left side of the photo) are repacked into ziplock bags. The cardboard wrapping on the socks was removed before shipping them to Afghanistan. The clothing items were packed in vacuum bags so help get more into the boxes.
photo by Stanley Leary

The United States Postal Service has a great webpage with instructions on how to ship to APO/FPO/DPO addresses.

See this list from the USPS of items not to send.

Several organizations support the troops year round. I will list a few here that I have contacted myself:

Military Families Ministries

Operation Gratitude

Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes


Reaching Out to Military Families Helps

Family Day at Fort Stewart, Oct. 2012
photo by Stanley Leary

It’s been a busy month for me. Most of it related to things other than The Citadel or Army mom involvement.We are very close to the deployment date of my oldest son so staying busy is a good thing. I find I am choking up or tearing up at odd times throughout the week.

We did attend his going away party in early October and then visited Fort Stewart for the Casing of the Colors ceremony and family day. I wrote about that experience for the military blog site Off the Base.

Some fun with family at the pre-deployment party. Quite a contrast to the photo at the top of the entry.

There are so many thoughts going through my mind it is hard to decide what to write about now. So much of it is extremely personal. I am an extrovert so many times what is in my head pops out of my mouth with very little screening. In this situation, however, I am more guarded about what I share with a nameless faceless readership.

Fortunately I can channel my anxiety into projects that help not only my son and his battalion but other military families and military families in training at The Citadel.

For the senior Army ROTC cadets at The Citadel it is a time of anticipation. They received their branch notices at a meeting recently. Their parents are now researching the next steps, including what BOLC means. The training for young officers is called Basic Officer Leadership Course or BOLC and is pronounced bullock. Our son attended Armor BOLC at Ft. Benning. The courses for the various branches of service are taught at bases throughout the country. If you have a cadet at The Citadel you can resource with other military parents through the Facebook group, Military parents of The Citadel. Most likely someone there will know something about the BOLC your cadet will go to after graduation.

If you or someone you know is a cadet or graduate of The Citadel and is currently deployed, make sure The Citadel Heroes Project has their APO/FPO address. You can contact Susie Maghakian with the name and address. Her contact information is below. This group of volunteers sends care packages to deployed cadets and grads a few times a year. They rely on the families to send the addresses. They have an immediate need for personal care items, including items for female soldiers, for the boxes that will be packed November 10 and financial support to cover postage. Items received after November 10 will still be sent out to the soldiers. Make checks payable to: The Citadel Heroes Project

Please send your donations to:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 171 Moultrie Street, The Citadel Station, Charleston, SC  29409

or if you are sending items via UPS or other carrier use the physical address on campus:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 201 Richardson Ave, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409

Phone: 843-953-5815

Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.
There are many nonprofit organizations that support the troops throughout the year. One organization I volunteer with is the Military Families Ministry. Co-founder, Tracie Ciambotti, is also a contributor to the blog Off the Base. She wrote a book called Battles of The Heart for new Army families.
This past August I enrolled in the Level II Comedy Writing Class taught by Jeff Justice. It was just one more way for me to stay busy and positive as we face the first deployment of our oldest son. In the routine I joked about Army Moms and their cell phones. During a deployment they keep them on their person at all times. Just today I was reflecting on how our life will be the next nine months. I imagine there will be times when I tick someone off on line at the grocery store or at an event when I answer my phone at an inappropriate time. I will not apologize if this happens.
The Family Readiness Group leadership at Ft. Stewart will send the contact information soon for anyone who would like to support our battalion while they are deployed. We already know they will need hand warmers, packets of hot chocolate and instant coffee, protein foods, and baby wipes. I’ll post the address to send donations when they send it to us.
Remember, if you are the parents of a deployed soldier it is completely normal and expected to be more emotional while they are deployed. If you do not have a family member in the military, but know someone who does, remember to check in with them and ask how they would like to be supported during this time.


2012 Corps Day Weekend, Part 1

I traveled to Charleston for what was originally going to be a little reunion with a couple of the Citadel Ya Ya friends. Due to work responsibilities both mom’s had to cancel, but I went anyway. I am so  glad I did! I had a fun weekend of catching up with current parents and cadets. Plus it was a gorgeous weekend.

My tradition the past four years when we had a cadet in school at The Citadel continued this weekend. The first stop is Mark Clark Hall for a rest break and a trip through the Gift Shop. Unlike the past four years I didn’t call my cadet to let him know we arrived safely. I began my visits with staff on campus with a trip to the Army ROTC office then the commandants office just to  say hello and catch them up on how our new second lieutenant is doing.

Visiting with Susie Maghakian in Deas Hall.
Visiting with Susie Maghakian in Deas Hall

The next stop was to Deas Hall to see Susie Maghakian the staff person who handles donations to The Citadel Heroes Project. Along the way I ran into two Citadel Family Association volunteers and friends. The next mailing to deployed cadets and graduates is coming up and I wanted to make a financial donation to help with the cost of the mailing. If you’d like to send in a donation see this link.

I wasn’t sure what it would be like to visit the campus on my own with no particular schedule. It turned out to be a really fun weekend with a few pleasant surprises along the way. Before the Friday parade I stopped by 1st Battalion to see who I might run into from Bravo Company. It was so fun to catch up with the parents of current seniors and other families I’ve some to know.

I shared dinner with two senior cadets from Delta Company. It was such a treat to go into two with these two bright young women. The dinner conversation was very different, in a good way, with women cadets rather than a group of guys. After parking along Church Street we walked to the Charleston Crab House for a delicious dinner and a few fun photos.Having a fun time at the Charleston Crab House.

Saturday of Corps Day the barracks are open to families and friends. Before the trip I arranged to meet a first year knob from Georgia to deliver a care package to the barracks. During Open Barracks family and friends can bring in food and supplies without any problem of raising the awareness of the cadre.

The next stop was the parade field to secure a good spot to watch the Summerall Guards exchange rifles. My son, a member of the 2011 Summerall Guards, passed his rifle to a fellow cadet in Bravo Company. This year that senior cadet passed the same rifle to another Bravo cadet. It is a very moving ceremony. I wanted to be sure to take photos so my son could see his friends with the rifle they each can now claim. I also took a lot of photos of another Bravo cadet from Texas. His parents couldn’t be there so I stood in and took photos for them.

The 2013 Summerall Guards begin their first performance

I checked YouTube this morning to see if the videos have started to appear. As of this writing I found two videos of the 2013 Summerall Guards. One is very short of the 2012 and 2013 Summerall Guards starting out on their battalion run. The second is a little shaky of the first performance of the 2013 Summerall Guards. As I met parents of the 2013 Summerall Guards I encouraged them to exchange email addresses with each other to make sharing information, photos and videos easier throughout the next year. Throughout the performance I took lots of photos.

Between the ceremony and the Saturday parade I caught up with a dear friend , fellow Georgia Citadel parent and Army wife, Jerri Rodgers. Her son is in the Regimental Band and Pipes. The Corps Day performance is a tribute to soldiers from throughout our history. As a selection is played a cadet dressed in a period uniform steps forward. All was going just fine until they reached the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The music was beautiful, but when the cadet stepped forward wearing uniforms my son is wearing now. A lump formed in my throat. Jerri must have sensed my emotions because she reached over and took my hand. The tears started rolling down my cheeks before I could pull myself together. In a few short month my second lieutenant will be in Afghanistan. While I can talk about his deployment and not become emotional, the sound of the band playing a solemn song coupled with two cadets in Army uniforms brought on emotions I must be keeping deep inside. 

I pulled myself together and prepared to watch the second parade of the weekend. I took even more photos and caught up with more friends, including graduates who were in town to visit too.

The afternoon and evening were also a lot of fun, but I’ll save those stories for the next entry.

Dorie with Davey Miller, 2010 Bravo Company Commander.

The Citadel: Parents Weekend and Ring Weekend tips

Bravo Company, 2011 Seniors show off their rings. photo by Stanley Leary

In one week my oldest son will graduate from Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (BLOC) at Fort Benning, GA.  In two weeks families from around the country will arrive in Charleston, SC for Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel.  This is the first time in four years we will not be in Charleston and it feels really strange.

I was going through photos from last year and thought of a few things I learned about parents Weekend that I should pass along.

For the families of seniors this weekend is all about the Ring. The afternoon presentation is in McAlister Field house.  The Cadet Activities office does a great job of posting information in advance. You’ll see people in all types of dress.  The senior cadets will be in their most formal uniform.  We decided to wear nice clothes for the presentation.

One little tip for the mothers of cadets. . .  if you would like the “Mother’s Ring” or a pendant consider buying it for yourself. Some cadets will order them on their own, but not many do. Parents of underclass cadets – the ring is ordered in their junior year.  The payment is due early their senior year.  The price varies with the gold prices and it can be close to $1,000.

After the seniors go into the field house the rest of the Corps of Cadets and their families can participate in the academic open house and the address by the president, or just leave campus.  Of course you always need to check with your cadet.  Depending on their rank and company they may have certain duties to perform.

The RIng Ceremony. A photo is taken when you go through the ring then half way down the carpet. I didn’t look the right way. You will hear a voice through the flower arrangement telling you to look to your right. photo by Stanley Leary

Friday night is the night the senior cadets walk through the replica of the Ring with their mother, date and /or family member. The cadet activities office posts the schedule of when each company is assigned to go through the ring. You need to be at the field house 15 minutes prior to the posted time. If you have an early time you can plan on dinner after you go through the ring. Our time was after 8:00 so a group of Bravo families went to dinner prior to going through the ring. Our cadets didn’t plan ahead. One of the moms’s called around Wednesday night to find a place that would take our group of 30 a the last-minute. Some companies have a tradition of having dinner together at a hotel. The school arranges to have a photographer at the presentation and also at he Hop afterwards. Do not be upset if your senior wants to spend most of their time with their buddies.  They have waited three years to earn the right to wear that band of gold.

Bravo Company flag. Parents’ Weekend 2010

Saturday morning is a crazy busy time.  Schedules vary but in general you can go to the barracks and see your cadet and their room. . Parents’ Weekend is the first time of the school year when they have Open Barracks, a time when family, friends and alumni can enter the barracks and visit rooms. The knobs prepare for this day weeks in advance.  They put a lot of time into painting a banner to be displayed from the 4th division (4th floor) of the barracks. If you wondered where their sheets went to, take a close look at the banner. Seriously, the banner and the various bulletin boards are a big deal.  Each floor has a different bulletin board.  The cadets take great pride in their designs each year.  Make sure to notice them.

You can hear the Regimental Band concert of Summerall Field, watch the Kelly Cup competition and see the Rifle Legion Performance Saturday morning too.  At 10:00 parents of knobs will want to be in the battalion to watch the promotion ceremony for the knobs.  They are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. The Citadel Heroes volunteers will man a table where you can sign cards for deployed cadets and recent graduates.

After the promotion ceremony the cadets get ready for the parade. First year parents will soon learn to stake out their spot in the stands early or bring their own chairs.

There is very little time between the parade and when the cadets have to get ready to march to the football stadium. You can pack your own lunch, eat in Coward Mess Hall or purchase a box lunch through cadet activities. We ate in the mess hall the first year then brought our own lunch after the first year.  I’ve learned that if you ask 5 different people their opinion of what to do for lunch that day you will get 5 different answers.  Do what your cadet would like to do.

It is fun to watch the cadets march to the stadium. Once you get to your seats you can watch the cadets line the field to cheer on the team. The cadets all sit together. We found sitting across the field from the cadet section was our favorite spot.  You are out of the sun. The Summerall Guards perform at half-time.

(NOTE the following paragraph about group tickets is not valid for 2012 tickets. There are no group rates for parent’s Weekend and Homecoming in 2012)

A good friend of mine purchased a block of tickets at a discount then made them available to friends.  The normal $30 ticket at the group rate was only $6 each.  My son’s senior year we had over 200 people in our section.  I had to pay for the tickets but everyone sent me their checks and a self-addressed stamped envelope. To do this you need to plan in advance. I purchased the tickets Matriculation Weekend at the ticket office and had the pick of the best seating. Posting a notice to the parent Facebook groups is a quick way to get the word out about ticket availability.

Once the game is over the cadets are free to join their family and friends. We were fortunate to have a group of friends to tailgate with each fall. Most knobs want to get good food and sleep before returning to the barracks around 11:30 pm. There is a silent procession of cars that drive around the parade field the hour before their curfew. It reminded me of the final scene from the movie “Field of Dreams,” when all you can see are a stream of headlights.

Sunday morning after chapel or ethics seminar the knobs can go off campus until about 6:00 or 7:00.

Just remember the weekend will fly by. You’ll do a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes. Parking is always tight these big weekends so getting to campus early Saturday is a good idea.

The 2011 Summerall Guards perform at half time of the game on parents’ Weekend.

Miscellaneous tips and info:

Dress: Be sure to check the weather reports. The past 4 years the weather was mostly very warm and sunny. Summer weight clothes are best. You’ll see a variety of outfits, mostly casual. Comfortable shoes are best since you do a good bit of walking. It did rain one year.  Umbrellas are not allowed in the stadium. A rain poncho is best.

Hotels: Most hotels will offer a special rate for Citadel families.  Call the hotel directly and ask if they offer a Citadel family rate.  The hotels closest to the school book very quickly. Marriott, Best Western, LaQuinta and SpringHill Suites, Marriott Courtyard are all very close.  The Hawthorn Suites Hotel is near The Citadel Mall and about 7 miles away they offer a very low rate for a suite room. Please feel free to leave your hotel recommendations in the comment section.


Charleston is known for it’s great restaurants.  Reservations are suggested for most fine dining restaurants. You can find some wonderful places all around the area.  The places farther from downtown are easier to get into and the prices can be lower too. Feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite restaurant tips.

Previous posts from Off the Base

As a little background, I thought it might be helpful to post links to the entries I’ve written for Off the Base, a blog by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Most of my entries for Off the Base have to do with being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel.  Future entries on this blog will be on a variety of topics.

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life

Dorie, Nelson and Leslie. Ring Ceremony 2010

Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

A New Blue Star Mom Shows Supports for Fallen Soldier

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Li

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

A Seminary Student, Now an Army Mom Reflects on 9/11