Both times I deployed, I took my satellite phone. It was a big fat brick of a phone, it looked a little like the old briefcase phones, like the drug dealers were using in the movie "New Jack City". I picked it up on ebay, it didn't hold a charge well, and the recharger was a chunky plug that was wired for European outlets. The sandstorms and helicopters would mess up reception, and I needed a direct view of the sky to use it. Still, that phone served me well and I actually completed 1/3 of my MBA from Iraq by teleconferencing with my study group, sitting out on top of the bunkers on moonless nights. Best of all, when times were tough and I was low, I knew I could reach out to Meredith and there was no better way to recharge my spirit.
A great way to give a troop a boost is to donate a cell phone. Nothing is more of a comfort than a few minutes talking with a loved one. It can break up a 36 hr journey and transport me home for a precious moment.
Everyone has an outdated cell phone in a desk drawer somewhere. There are plenty of local organizations that will take phones, but here is a national one:
This program was started by two teens outside Boston who raised money for troops. Donated phones are cashed in with a company called ReCellular, and the money is used to send calling cards to troops abroad. Cards can be used in any country where there is USO or military phone service available.
Here is a news report about their program: