VEGEMITE, Anzac biscuits and shampoo are the hot ticket items when it comes to care packages for Aussie troops — a tradition showing civilian gratitude that has lovingly lasted 100 years.
Every year, some 5000 individual care packages filled with creature comforts from home are sent to men and women serving in locations including Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Israel and the UAE.
The tradition was born in WWII, with hundreds of thousands of packages sent to soldiers serving overseas.
“It’s a tradition that is greatly supported and valued by all involved,” said Canberra-based retired Lieutenant Colonel Ian Robinson.
“They are packed mostly by RSL members and it shows a tradition of caring and a very strong connection with deployed personnel.”
Like the troops before them, those currently serving abroad appreciate it — and sometimes it’s the smallest things, like being able to dunk a biccie into a cuppa when they’re missing home.
“While it is hard being away from friends and family, especially on special family occasions, we have very good support and activities planned that allow us to look after each other and keep moral high,” wrote Lisa, an Australian Defence Force member serving in the Middle East, in a thankyou letter.
“Being able to dunk an Anzac biccie in my cuppa on Anzac Day after the dawn service this year was so much more special.”
Managed by the National Special Projects team at RSL National in partnership with the Australian Defence Force, the packages have been produced by the RSL for 52 years.
Before that, in early WWI, local women’s groups would get together to provide tobacco, cakes, puddings, condensed milk, sugar, newspapers and other “luxury” items to supplement soldiers’ army rations.
They also sent letters, extra clothing — and socks.
Socks were urgently needed, and in the winter of 1916 alone, they provided 80,000 hand-knitted pairs.
The newly-created Australian Red Cross Society also dispatched 395,695 food parcels and 36,339 clothing parcels to support the troops during WWI, with 102,000 patriotic volunteers committed to doing their bit back home.
This care is another of the 15 key characteristics celebrated in News Corp Australia’s ANZAC Spirit coin collection, with an upcoming coin highlighting the importance of “Loyalty”.
This attribute was displayed not just by servicemen in WWI, but by the legions of civilian volunteers on the home front.
The limited edition 15-day coin collection pays homage to the impressive traits and virtues embodied by Australia’s service men and women, as reflected by the stunning stained glass windows in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Memory.
The coins — which cost $3 with your paper — are in their final days next week, but it’s not too late if you’re missing one, or are yet to start your collection.
Contact your local newsagent to pick up past copies of the paper — for a full list of participating newsagents, visit www.anzaccoincollection.com.au