Military families miss crucial moments together. Here are a few ways to feel close when you’re apart.

Care packages with a taste of home

A care package done right is worth its weight in gold. While often reserved for deployments or holidays, the impact is even bigger when it’s a random surprise, and nothing beats coming back from a long training cycle to find a box of goodies reminding you of home.

If your service member is stationed stateside, remember what’s priority — FOOD! Restaurant options on post are typically lacking and all the local chains begin to blend together over time. While you can’t go to your service member’s favorite spot from home and ship them a plate of lasagna, you can get creative. Ask the local restaurants what sauces, seasonings, or other sealed items they can provide. When your loved one uses the ingredients, they’re not eating in the barracks, but rather in your living room.

Those deployed overseas are going to be looking for very specific items, so it’s best to ask. When I was in Iraq in 2009, my hometown was kind enough to send care packages to my platoon. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that hard candies and disposable cameras were at the bottom of the wish list, but appreciated the gesture nonetheless. Ask your service member what would make life more comfortable for them, and if you have extra to spare, send enough for their battle buddies to use. Baby wipes and deodorant are always a safe choice, but asking rather than guessing will go a long way.

Photo frames 2.0

Growing up, I remember being in awe of the photos of my grandparents who served in the military. Shots of them out with the boys, or looking stoic in their graduation photos made me feel closer to them. The photos brought me to that moment in time, and it’s a large reason why I joined the Marines.

With Facebook and Instagram, it seems easier than ever to share photos with loved ones, but there’s not much magic there. From deployments and time overseas to being back stateside, there are plenty of moments that should hold the same weight our grandparents’ photos did. Also, let’s be real, we all have an aunt that just doesn’t get “the Facebook,” or gets it way too much. A lot better she keeps that awkward middle school photo of you off the internet and on a digital photo frame for her eyes only. To bridge the generational gap and keep your moments personal, products like the Nixplay digital photo frame are key. I gifted one to my parents after moving. With pandemic travel restrictions, it’s nice for them to feel like they’re connected to my day. It certainly came in handy after my recent engagement - my parents were able to watch the proposal video on their frame just minutes after!

Nixplay frames are also a great way to stay connected to deployed service members, as long as they have a WiFi connection. You’ll be able to send them photos and videos that will appear in their frame, giving them something to look forward to each week. The frame even comes equipped with a motion sensor so you won’t be disrupting their sleep when you’re 12 hours apart. Keep your service members in your everyday moments so they don’t feel so far removed from home.

Share experiences with games and apps

With user (and grandparent) friendly mobile apps, it’s easy and fun to stay connected through online gaming: Scrabble for the parents, Call of Duty for the siblings, or a trivia app for the grandparents. The light-hearted competition will provide something to talk about next time you’re on the phone instead of just sharing the usual updates.

Deployed service members can also use apps to play games with their kids, or record themselves reading a bedtime story. Military kids living far from grandparents or friends from former duty stations can play games together, use fun video chat features, or play online challenges to stay in touch. Look for lists of age-appropriate games or apps that will help you stay connected in your current situation.

Send a care package, share a photo, or just spend an hour playing some mobile games with your family. The point is there are plenty of ways to keep connected. It doesn’t matter where you’re stationed or how far you are from home: shared moments always bring us closer.

This article is sponsored by Nixplay.