January 21, 2011
By Stacey Abler, owner of www.marriedtothearmy.com
* Updated January 2016
Your main form of communication with your husband/soldier during basic training is through letters and postcards. He should be able to call home throughout training but these calls are generally limited to a maximum of one per week and, many times, are less often than that. Before he leaves for basic training, accept that you will only hear from him through letters and it will be much easier to deal with in the following weeks.
Grab your pen, a pad of paper and plenty of stamps to get ready for more letter writing than you’ve probably ever done in your life. Follow these tips to make your letter writing a success during basic training.
- Enlist the help of family and friends. While it’s great to be able to write to him every day, the possibility is great that you will miss a few days here and there and will run across those days where you literally have nothing to say. When this happens, it’s great to know that other family members and friends are also sending him mail. You can rest assured that he will always have mail from someone.
- Buy a stack of greeting cards. These cards tend to be much less intimidating than a blank sheet of paper. You can write a quick note and be happy knowing that he is still receiving mail that day. After an exhausting day, he may be just as thrilled to have a shorter note to read rather than a six page letter from you.
- Speaking of that, don’t feel bad about keeping it short. Many times, he may feel pressure to also send back the same length of communication that you are sending him. If you have plenty to say, by all means, go for it. But don’t drag on for ten pages just so you can say you wrote him a ten page letter. He’ll be just as happy with a one page letter from home. After all, these letter reading and writing times are typically only allowed during his only free time of the day.
- Jot down notes during the day of things that you want to tell him about when you write. Often, during the day as things would happen, I would think that I wanted to tell him about it. But at the end of the day when I sat down to write his letter, my mind would go blank. Keeping a small notebook with me helped a lot. It was also helpful when I received that unexpected phone call and would be at a loss of words for him.
- Tell him about your day. Yes, it used to bore him to tears when he was with you all the time to hear about who said what at work. But now? He wants to hear about home and to hear about “normal” life again. So share those details. You’ll never have the chance again for such undivided attention.
- If you have questions that you need to have answered, list them out at the end of the letter. This will be easier for him to know exactly what information you need and won’t have him searching back through the letter. Remember, he is under a lot of stress and is expected to remember an incredible amount of information during his training. Make it easy for him if there is information you must have.
- If you’re running out of things to say, recap what’s on television for him. Give the scoop on his favorite shows or the ESPN update with sports scores. He’ll love being able to still know all that is going on at home even when he’s far away from any type of media coverage. Unless he specifically says it is okay, avoid sending newspaper clippings to him while he’s in basic training. While some places will allow it, others will not.
- Don’t send mail to him until he gives you his mailing address. If you don’t have the correct mailing address, it will go round and round in the postal system on post before getting to him, if it ever does. Be patient and wait for official notification of his correct mailing address before sending any mail.
- Don’t decorate the outside of the envelope, spray perfume on it or send girly colored letters. Yes, it looks cute to you. But the drill sergeants and his new buddies will give him a hard time about it. He doesn’t want to call attention to himself at all and he certainly doesn’t want to do that over your letters.
- Don’t send packages to him or attempt to enclose anything in the envelope other than letters and small pictures unless he specifically asks for it. If he asks for it, send it – either he’s allowed to have it or willing to pay the price for getting it. Otherwise, stick only to letters and postcards.
Remember that your letters are an important form of support while he is in basic training. It is imperative that you write to him as often as possible and encourage other family members and friends to do the same.
If at all possible, keep your letters upbeat and reinforce how proud you are of him throughout his training. He is undergoing a very challenging set of circumstances and knowing that he has the support of his loved ones who believe in him will mean a lot after a rough day of training.