The Deployment Christmas Gift Conundrum

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Sending Christmas gifts downrange is a bit of a Catch-22. On the one hand, you want your spouse to know that you are thinking of him lotsandlotsandlots, so you want to buy and mail him a Christmas gift so awesome that he cannot help be wowed! and amazed! and giddy-5-year-old-on-Christmas excited over the awesomeness of that perfect gift.

But then on the other hand, the man (or lady) is in far, far away in Afghanistan, presumably very busy doing something super important that warrants him being gone over the holidays. He doesn’t have time there to appreciate the Perfect Gift. Plus sending him the Perfect Gift over there may not be a good idea anyway. In my personal experience Afghanistan is the perfect place to ship something you would like lost, stolen, broken or returned very, very dirty and full of computer viruses. (Which explains the evil eye my husband received when he said “maybe I should take our family Xbox downrange with me.” Mmmhmm. No.)

And then there is the shipping problem. That flat rate box is not so big. And the stuff he really wants can’t be sent down range anyway. That new grill. Or a slice of his mom’s Huckleberry Pie. Or you in nothing but a strategically placed Christmas bow.

So instead of going big and impressive, you decide to send him something that he actually needs. But then you remember that all the things he actually needs aren’t fun at all. And you really do want “fun.” Plus he likely already has everything he needs either provided by the service or purchased on an as-wanted basis while he is gone.

Conclusion: Unless you have a servicemember who wants something very specific  and very easy, an actual Christmas present may not be in the cards this year – at least while he is still downrange.

Feeling frustrated yet? Me too. So here’s what I’m planning to send this holiday season. Have a better idea? Please, for the love of Moses, share it in the comment section:

Cutsie won’t kill him. I’m going to take Raleigh’s suggestion in this post and attack him with Christmas spirit. He won’t be able to escape the adorable decorations and merry making that is in this box. Plus he’ll also get to candy canes. And I ask you – what can be wrong with that?

Attack of his offspring. I’m going to enlist my 3-year-old in slave labor disguised as “Dave and Mommy Craft Time.” That child is going to decorate ornaments and Christmas spirit fun until the markers run dry. We’ll stuff the box with homemade crafts. He can enjoy them while eating the candy canes.

Something naughty. I’m going to fish something from the long neglected recesses of my lingerie drawer, soak it in my perfume and seal it in a ziplock bag. I’m on the “wife porn might end up in the wrong hands” side of this debate, so this is as close as I can get him to me for now.

Sugar plums literally dancing in front of him. Since temperatures in the ‘Stan aren’t quite what they are other times of the year, it’s safe to send some carefully sealed perishables. While his mom’s pie may not be possible, I’m going to try vacuum sealing a selection of his favorite Christmas cookies. He’ll enjoy eating them in between the candy canes.


What are you going to send? Give a girl a hand – this household is taking suggestions.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Guest

    What I learned AFTER my husband’s recent deployment, is that he would have preferred that I not send anything special for Christmas beyond the typical care package. If he would have had his way, the day would have passed just like any other. He would have preferred not being reminded of what he was missing back home.

  • Susan Freemyer

    Try sending a Nerf ball or Nerf football, or maybe a little craft kit easy for them to make. Lifesaver candy and books on tape that they can pass along to others. Instead of buying him some warm lounge pants to sleep in, I made him a pair. Still his favorite to this day. Shop the toy department for some $1 fun. I even got mine a cigar of the month that he got and shared with his group. Be creative and think out of the box.

  • I got a battery powered lighted Christmas tree, fully decorated, and a blow up snow man, also battery powered, gloves wrapped, one of those real high lumen head lamps wrapped, the candy canes, a nativity scene, a string of battery powered Christmas lights, a mini wreath, and a miniature fruitcake in two of those postal mailers. He was delighted…. because they were having a contest to decorate the offices with a prize being awarded… but eventually they disqualified him for having a helper back home who had gotten him all the goodies, but the whole compound enjoyed the decorations.

  • Rquick

    I’m sending mine just some fun goodies in his CP. Snow in a can, a xmas card, some photos, some food items, and possibly a model kit or something of the like.

  • Michelle

    I sent my fiance a Jambox wifi speaker for x-mas last year in Afghanistan. Compact, portable, and packs a punch. He absolutely loved it and was able to take it on patrol. Definitely made me the “cool” girlfriend at the time.

  • jonny_v

    mini marshmallows…. stupid PX won’t carry them and while you can get cocoa… marshmallows are the perfect holiday MWR boost

  • Margaret

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been ruminating over what to do for weeks now. I think for a lot of us spouses it’s hard not to want to go all out. But I know my guy and others don’t feel/think that way, want it to pass simply, etc. Thanks for the good ideas & wisdom shared!

  • Pat

    Homemade chocolate chip cookies, triple ginger cookies, walnut fudge, candy canes, cigars… plenty to share. It’s what the season’s about. Silly little wind-up toys to race and fool around with. Michele’s Jambox wifi speaker–wish I’d thought of that. Great idea.

  • Laurette D-Plaza

    As the wife and now mother of soldiers, I have had a few years of packing holiday boxes. My first edict is; nothing that is too hard for a Kindergartener. I make use of the dollar store and shop for toys, coloring books and other toys designed for preschoolers. Some of the biggest hits; Old Maid and Go Fish card games, matchbox cars to crash, Nurf balls (put in zip lock bag and roll from bottom to remove as much air as possible. I always include a full stocking with candy, toys and a pair of good wool socks to keep their feet warm and dry. Another favorite is I collect fall leaves, preserve them by ironing between two sheets of wax paper, and pour some in every box throughout the fall and winter. I always try to keep everything light, funny, and nonstressful.

  • Kate

    This is our third Christmas apart. First year I made him a photo book of pictures of the kids that I had snapped while he was away, second year I had the kids read him a recordable story book and this year I scanned what felt like a zillion pictures from the day we met all the way through this thanksgiving and made him a DVD set to music. He LOVED each of them. Plus is usually send him small “fun” gifts like pull back race cars, flying reign deer, ect for his little stocking stuffers.

  • Katie

    BACON! Men love bacon! Try they have some of the funniest bacon flavored and bacon related gifts. My husband likes the coffee and cheese sticks.

    • jacey_eckhart

      LOVE THIS. And my son is going to think I am brilliant for finding it. Yet you, dear reader, have done all the work. Thank you!!

  • Shannon

    This time I sent some mini decorations and stocking stuffers I found at The Container Store (gel cleaner for electronics, pocket sized screwdriver set). I also wrote personal notes for him to open on each Sunday of Advent. I included the Scripture verses, the theme for that week and a note about what I thought the theme (I.e. joy) means for us now and in the future. Our daughter made a tree topper for his tiny tree.

  • My sons first deployment I sent him a hard cover book that I made online with a lot of pictures of him growing up. He really enjoyed that. I also sent raisin oatmeal cookies. The guys really love those, and when he opens the tin, the guys seem to smell it a mile away, and they are gone!

  • b kaiser

    We sent three nerf gifts, one for my husband and one for his co-worker and one for the boss (who does not have kids). My kids thought it would be funny for the three of them to open them up and each have toys to tag each other.

    This is not our frist go around…we send silly gifts that I don’t expect to come back. Cheap from the Dollar Store.