The deadline to ship military care packages to troops before Christmas hasn't passed, though some families may have sent their gifts weeks ago.
Tuesday is the deadline to send First Class and Priority Mail packages to ensure delivery by Dec. 25. This includes the flat rate priority boxes offered by the post office. Priority Mail Express will ensure deliver to an APO if sent by Dec. 17.
But Ben Abel, a Fort Bragg spokesman, said there may not be as many packages going overseas this year, thanks to troops returning home.
"The positive thing this year is majority of guys are home," Abel said.
But if a loved one is still deployed, what should be sent?
beautiful christmas cards Rice's husband is still deployed. She said she knows what to avoid sending him.
"He doesn't eat candy," she said. "I send him coffee, his magazine subscriptions. This year I sent him Christmas cards so he could give out to his men."
She also advises families to pack things extremely carefully.
"The APO roughs them up more than the regular mail," she said.
Her husband has brought home the boxes she sent. With the shape they were in, she said, she couldn't use them again.
"I'd say maybe skip glass Christmas ornaments," she said.
Elizabeth Griffin's husband isn't deployed now, but she's had a lot of experience sending out care packages in her husband's five deployments.
"There's things you can't send, things that are restricted," Griffin said.
Depending on where the soldier is deployed, the prohibited items may change, so families are encouraged to check before they send anything.
"Don't send alcohol," she said. "If it gets confiscated, the soldier can get in a lot of trouble."
The season of the destination country is also something to keep in mind.
"I sent my husband gummy vitamins once," she said. "It didn't even occur to me that it was July. By the time he got it, they had all melted together."
She said sending individual packets of food is preferable, to keep things from sticking together. Some things she's found popular include protein packets, beef jerky and magazines.
Both Rice and Griffin agreed that magazines were well received by their loved ones..
"There is never a magazine that does not get read," Griffin said. "Even if it was about knitting."
Websites such as the armywifenetwork.com, ourmilitary.mil and anysolider.com can help provide ideas for care packages.
Rice suggests just asking loved ones what they need.
"My husband will just tell me what he wants," she said. "He'll just say, 'Hey, I need another T-shirt, Hon.' If you know them personally, just ask what they want."
Staff writer Derek Wickham can be reached at email@example.com or 323-4848, ext. 332.