The Care Of A Care Package
like the military didn’t feed you, it does. Sometimes
it even goes out of its way to provide
lobster. Yes, we had lobster in
only problem with our getting lobster in the Mekong Delta is in two
parts. First is the fact that Navy cooks
how to cook lobster. Lobster is like
shrimp, very delicate, and should be barely cooked.
Drop it in boiling water, turn off the heat,
and let sit for some minutes...... I don’t remember exactly. Second, there was the ship’s crew, the Navy
staff, the Army staff, the gunboat crews, and the embarked Army
lets say, about 1100 men.
Let me tell you how our cooks prepared that lobster for all those men. They used large kettles, huge ones really, and boiled the lobster until it was done...... many times over. By the time the lobster got to the table, you needed a hacksaw to cut it.
in the wardroom (officer’s dining area) one night eating my lobster. One of the Army officers sitting across from
me noticed the tears in my eyes and thought I was overcome by the fine
that had been served us that night. He
said something to me about it. I looked
up and told him, “How could they do this to perfectly good lobster?”
can see, any package of food from home was much looked forward to. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the
delivery. Our mail was flown by jet,
mostly airlines jets, or charter passenger jets, to
was so amazing was that we would get mail that was postmarked two, yes
before. If you count the fact that you
lose a day crossing the international date line, the mail was
what, yesterday. For you Star Trek
that is the equivalent of “Beam the mail over, Scotty.”
The mail service was truly
amazing.........except when it came to packages.
usual sequence of events that happened when the mail helo landed was
chief would kick out the incoming mail bags. Then
the outgoing mail bags would be loaded by some of the
crew. Then that mail helo roared away to
the next stop. That helo wasn’t on deck
for as much as a minute.
first care package that I remember arriving that got any notice was a
cake for the executive officer. For you
non-military types, he was the second in command of the ship. This was early in my year’s tour aboard the
ship. On that day, the crew chief,
instead of kicking out the mail, had a box in his hands.
It was a cake box. The XO’s
parents had sent him a birthday
cake. They had cut out the center of the
box top and substituted clear cellophane so everyone could see that it
cake. The helo crew chief said that
stewardesses on the jet from the states had hand delivered the cake
west coast of the US. Wow, it was a big
deal amongst the crew. It was also the
first and last cake that made it intact.
For the next eleven months the story was the same. Mail call would be announced and the lucky crew members who got care packages would walk away from the mail room window with faces that positively glowed. They were all smiles and their fellow crew men would crowd around them as they tore open the wrappings. Of course they all hoped that the recipient of food from home would share with them. Then there would be a collective, “Awwwww.”
Every single care package, whether it was cookies or cake, was nothing but crumbs. You remember that ultra fast mail service? Some began to whisper that if there was a care package in the mail that it was delivered with special handling....... dropped from a great height by a B52 bomber. I don’t care how they were wrapped, the result was always the same..... crumbs. Don’t get me wrong, they ate the crumbs, but it wasn’t the same.
for almost my whole year without a care package. I’m
not counting the fifth of Jack Daniels
that a girl in Miami sent me. I don’t
know how it survived in the mail, but I would have been in trouble if
of 1968 and I was counting the days until I went home.
When Christmas came I had less than a week to
go in-country. Care packages came in
frequently right before the holiday, usually with the same results.....
crumbs. I finally got a care
package. Did it fare any better?
package was from my grandmother in Florida. How would a 73 year old
know how to pack a care package. The
answer might surprise you. When I saw
who the package was from, I knew the contents. It
had to be brownies and oatmeal cookies, with plenty of
both. I held my breath as I tore the
cardboard box apart. What I found inside
was different from all the other care packages.
the box was a fruitcake tin. The lid was
taped on securely, sealing the lid closed, and waxed paper had been put
the lid as a seal. When I opened that
tin I was surprised to find fresh brownies and oatmeal cookies, intact. You see, my grandmother had experience
sending care packages...... to my dad aboard an aircraft carrier during
War II. That was during the battle for
Okinawa in 1945.
Then, recently, I received an autobiography of a relative. In it she wrote about her life in Tampa back 80 years ago. She mentioned my grandparents and something that caught my attention. I found out that grandmother sent care packages to granddad in France in 1918. According to the story, written by a relative, her date cakes were “fresh and moist” upon arrival overseas. She knew how to care for a care package.
Tom Sparkman August 14, 2002