Thursday, 29 January 2009

What did you do on Australia Day?

Actually, I did stuff all. Went for a long ride (for me) of about 5okm, then flaked out all afternoon, utterly exhausted. I went to put the lamb chops on the BBQ, and found that the second burner had gone the way of the first - ie, dead BBQ. The horror, the horror........ no BBQ on Australia day.

However, three things did intersect and force me to get off my arse and do something I should have done a long time ago. Those things were Private Sher, Trooper Donaldson and Australia Day - to me representing Duty, Courage and Service. If mention of those names stirs something deep within you, you'll understand where I am coming from. If not, go read a different blog.

I put together a "care pack" for a soldier who has deployed to a foreign land. We've never met - we only know of each other through a mutual friend. But he's over there, and I'm over here, and I figured it's time someone else apart from his family sent him some home comforts. You don't need to know someone directly to send a package - you can send one to "any Australian soldier" in say Afghanistan, and know that a digger over there will be munching on Minties or Anzac biscuits in a few week time.

It costs nothing to send a package to troops in the field (so long as you put the right address on it). I bought a BM sized box from the post office (about the size of a shoe box) for $2 and then filled it to the 2kg permissible limit (using electronic scales in the kitchen).

The sad thing is that 2kg is not much. I felt bad about the rather pathetic amount of stuff that I could fit into a 2kg limit.

So I bought a second $2 box, and sent two boxes.

There's no point sending things they can buy or scrounge for themselves in whatever dusty location they're in, and I guess each and every deployment is different in terms of what the troops would like and what they can get. What you send needs to be light and non-perishable, and hopefully meaningful. Here is the sort of stuff I sent:

  • Anzac biscuits
  • Bloodnut biscuits
  • Minties
  • Mixed pack of chockie bars (they may turn into a molten disaster by the time they arrive - we'll see)
  • Twisties
  • Milo
  • Peanut paste (smooth and crunchie) - they can get vegemite, but in this particular location, no peanut paste for you
  • 2 minute noodles
  • magazines (all they are getting is Women's Weekly and so on)
It can take 3 weeks to get there, so we'll see what sort of feedback I get on what worked and what didn't. These are small, simple comforts and reminders of home. I'm going to save the magazines that I read and send them in the next shipment - soldiering can be boring as hell, and reading can help pass the time. No one is going to care if they are second hand and a month old when they arrive - by the time they have been passed around the base, they'll look like a salivating dog has been chewing on them.

If you're interested, try sending a package to Afghanistan:

"An Australian Soldier"
Op Slipper
Australian Defence Force

If you personally know of someone who is overseas, you can ask for their AFPO address and go from there.

You need to fill out a customs declaration at the Post Office when you send it, and you need to show ID, but that's it (so try and remember what you put in the box!)

For me, this simple act made it the most meaningful Australia Day I've ever experienced.

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