We had only been married for three weeks when my husband left for Army Basic Training. It was hard. We missed each other so much. As an Army Brat, letter-writing wasn’t new to me. But I wasn’t prepared for Basic Training letters. During those first few weeks, when I wasn’t on Pinterest pinning inspirational homecoming pins, I was researching the do’s and don’ts of letter writing to my soldier at Basic. Looking back on it all, some of the guidelines I encountered were true, but some were totally myths.
Myth 1: You Can’t Send Him Pictures
The guys are allowed to have pictures, but they aren’t allowed to receive anything beside letters, if that makes sense. About a month into Basic, our wedding photographer sent me the photos. I wanted my husband to see them SO BAD because #1 I loved them and #2 I knew they would be a total morale booster. But I knew if I sent a padded envelope of wedding photos, he wouldn’t be allowed to receive them. The trick here is to put the photos in the right size envelope.
I chose small envelopes, ones that were the size of the photos, and grouped them into small stacks of 6 photos or less. I even bound them together with flat ties so that they wouldn’t slide around. In short: they were the illusion of a thick greeting card, but in reality they were four envelopes of wedding photos. It was totally worth using 4 stamps up at once–the drill sergeants had no idea and my husband loved it! Even his battle buddies found them to be a pick-me-up, and they hardly knew us!
Just remember–you can ONLY send appropriate photos.
Myth 2: You Can Send Him Sticks of Gum
Even though you can get away with sending him pictures, you absolutely can’t send him gum. Ranger school is a different story. But at Basic, the soldiers are not allowed to have candy. Any candy found is considered contraband and will get your soldier in trouble. If he is seen chewing the gum outside of food hours, they will know he had it in his room. And if they find it on him (whether that be his uniform or his locker) he will get in trouble. You don’t want to get him in trouble for something as trivial as gum!
Myth 3: It’s the US Postal Service…He’ll Get the Mail
Yes, it’s the US Postal System that shuffles your letters to and fro the states. But it’s also the US Army that shuffles the letters fro and to him. Even though you specifically address your letter to your soldier in his particular platoon, the entire company’s letters all arrive at the same mail room. And though the mail room sorts through the letters at a fairly normal pace, it’s not guaranteed that they will sort all the letters as quickly as the post office does. Also, if your soldier is in trouble, on a detail, or out in the field training, mail call may not happen that night. Be assured, they will arrive eventually. But they may arrive in bunches sometimes. And they may not arrive as quickly as his letters make it to you.
Myth 4: Keep Your Letters Positive
This one is only kinda a myth. It’s true that your letters, for the most part, should be positive. After all, nobody wants to get a letter full of lemons every night. However, emotions play a new role in your soldier’s life. I haven’t met an Army wife/fiancee/girlfriend who hasn’t said that her soldier wrote her a letter with true feeling. I don’t mean either good or bad emotions, I just mean real feelings.
If he is writing you and telling you that this-or-that has been tough, it’s okay to do the same. An unconvincingly peppy letter is more likely to stress him out, as he might be able to tell you’re holding back. Be real and be honest, just don’t be critical or overly dramatic. As anyone who is in a real relationship knows, nothing bad ever comes from being honest. While Basic Training can be a tough time for couples, it shouldn’t change your basic communication skills–which include telling the truth.
And if you’re reading this and wondering why you haven’t received a “feelings” letter from him…no worries. It will come. That is not a myth.
Myth 5: My Friend Squirted All Her Letters With Perfume, So I Can Too
This one is frustrating. Some girls totally get away with dousing their envelopes in perfume. Others can’t. One girl lovingly decorated her letter with stickers, only to have the drill sergeant make the receiving soldier do a certain number of pushups for every sticker. It totally depends on the drill sergeants. To err on the side of caution, I made my envelopes as nondescript as possible. White business envelopes. Black pen. The only “decorations” were fun stamps: hearts, flowers, etc. Something he couldn’t get blamed for.
My advice: if you are the perfumey-sticker-type, wait to send those til AFTER he tells you how the drill sergeants act during mail call. If his DS’s are pretty relaxed (hard to imagine, I know!) and just hand out the letters, then you should be good to go. But if they use mail time as an opportunity for harassment (which is semi-likely) then just keep the outside of the envelope boring and let the magic take place inside it.
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Hopefully this myth-busting assuaged your fears and made writing those Basic letters a little easier. Sending the first few letters is always the hardest, so don’t worry if it’s tough right now. And if you have any other myths to share about Basic Training letters, leave a comment below!
**You can find my favorite kind of Basic Training letter stationary here. This is an affiliate link!**