Cub Scout holding care package.

The theme of Pack 164’s annual Christmas party hasn’t changed in four years: service before self.

Every year, members of the pack from Madison, Miss., gather to assemble care packages for military personnel deployed overseas.

The Cub Scouts fill boxes with things like dental floss, gum, foot powder, candy bars, shaving cream, beef jerky and other essentials available at every gas station in the U.S. but harder to find in a combat zone.

In 2018, the pack shipped 300 boxes. This year, they increased that number to 359, an all-time high.

Each box also gets a handwritten letter from a Cub Scout, thanking the soldier for their service. Even though it may take a while, the pack usually gets a response.

“I’m sorry that it took so long to write you all back. We don’t have a lot of free time — we have to fight the bad guys,” U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Siegel wrote in her response last year. “It puts a big smile on our faces to read your letters, so please keep sending them!”

Better year after year

George Fondren, Pack 164’s assistant Cubmaster, oversees the event. Each year, he’s added a new element to make it even more impactful for the Cub Scouts.

This year, the Cub Scouts got to FaceTime with Mississippi soldiers stationed in Qatar. Cub Scouts and family members held up supportive signs and asked questions to these brave men and women.

The Cub Scouts learned about the mission in Qatar, the equipment used and what it’s like to be away from family during the holidays.

Fondren also created a “Hometown Heroes” wall displaying more than 100 photos of veterans or active-duty soldiers related to anyone in the pack.

“We had hundreds of these photos — from World War I to present,” Fondren says.

To make the display interactive, Fondren created a game. The Cub Scouts worked to figure out the significance of acronyms like CWT (Chief Watertender, a Navy officer who worked in the boiler room) or WAF (Women in the Air Force, started in 1948).

Fondren also invited residents from the nearby VA Nursing Home so the Scouts could thank them for their service.

“Four attended, including my father,” Fondren says. “He said it was the best day he had had in over a year.”

Wolf elective: Hometown Heroes

In Hometown Heroes, a Wolf elective adventure, Cub Scouts learn about the heroes living in their own communities — people like police officers, firefighters and veterans.

For Requirement 4A, they must, “as a den or family, honor a serviceman or servicewoman by sending a care package along with a note thanking them for their service.”

You don’t have to pack hundreds of boxes like Pack 164 to meet the requirements. Your den could work together to fill one box and send it overseas.

Make the perfect care package

Kind gestures aren’t just in season at Christmas. Sending care packages to our soldiers overseas can — and should — be a year-round occasion.

For guidance on what to include and what to leave out, check out this article from the USO. You can also go right to your nearest USO location for assistance.

What have you included in a care package for soldiers? Let me know in the comments below.

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