Army Basic Training has its highs and lows, for the soldiers and their families. The highs can be pretty high (hello, Family Day) but the lows can be low. One of the best way to combat those Basic Training blues is through love letters! It can be very romantic to pen letters to each other every day. But it can also be stressful if you’ve been hearing rumors that swirl around the ever-famous Basic Training mailing system. I’ve busted some myths before, but here are 5 more letter writing myths you can disregard during your letter writing sessions:
1. The Drill Sergeants are Hiding my Letters
It’s a total myth that Drill Sergeants withhold letters on purpose. That used to happen in the Old School US Army, but it’s not a tactic of the modern Drill Sergeant. It would be a total morale killer and the Drill Sergeants have the important job of balancing motivation with morale. If they every “withhold” mail, it’s usually for one of two reasons, and never on purpose: 1) The soldiers are busy with a task at night that interrupts the time they would have to receive mail. 2) The soldiers are practicing field training excerises in the field, and when they do that, there is no mail call. If you’re soldier has sent you quite a few letters but has yet to receive any of yours, that does NOT mean he is in trouble. It doesn’t mean his mail is being confiscated. Usually, it simply means that there has been a delay in sorting mail. But if you’re unsure, I wrote an entire post on why he may or may not be receiving your letters.
2. The Drill Sergeants Open my Letters
The Drill Sergeants won’t open his letters (though they very well might open his packages, if he gets any). However, if a letter arrives with a suspicious feel–like lumps of gum or a stack of photos, they will ask your soldier to open the letter in front of them. The soldiers are not permitted to have any candy sent through a letter, so it will be confiscated on sight. If, for some reason, the candy makes its way through the letter and into your soldier’s locker, he will get in even more trouble for having it in his possession. Moral of the story: don’t send gum. Onto photos…as long as they are appropriate, they will not be confiscated. See my original post for guidelines on sending pictures. Again, if the envelope arrives puffy or like it is stuffed with photos, he will most likely have to open the envelope in front of the Drill Sergeants.
3. He is Too Busy to Read my Letters
There are some days that the soldiers will be very busy. And on occasion, their day and night will be spent in the field, meaning they can’t receive mail (see above). But for the most part, they are given at least 1 hour of down-time before bed to unwind, talk, and get ready for the next day. If you send him a letter, just know that he WILL get the chance to read your letter eventually. And he will love it.
4. The Letter Rules are the Same as When my Friend Attended a Few Years Ago
Unfortunately, this one is totally a myth. The “rules” vary from month to month–in fact, they vary from platoon to platoon! There are some rules that are set in stone: no inappropriate photos, no packages of candy, etc. But some are a little more flexible. It all is dependent upon the Drill Sergeants. Some of the Drill Sergeants are very picky, and will even ban newspaper clippings (does anyone read those anymore?). Others are okay with the clippings, but draw the line at decorated envelopes (those don’t get confiscated, but the soldier gets reprimanded with PT). I talk about the issue of sending non-letter items in this post. Know the basic rules, and then err on the side of caution. Don’t be afraid to ask your soldier too! He might tell you that everyone has been getting scented and colored envelopes, in which case you can do it too. But there is no harm in playing it safe during your first round of letters, until you find how his Drill Sergeants have been reacting to mail.
5. My Letters Need to be Extremely Varied
After the first 10 letters, you may start wondering if you need to mix-it-up a bit. A lot of Basic Training letter guides will tell you to send sports clippings, hollywood updates, or even “themed” letters. There is nothing wrong with those! (clipping rule–see above or see here). But there is also nothing wrong with sending a regular, normal letter (or card)! There is no way for your soldier to add “variety” to his letters, and I’m sure you never get tired of his! That goes both ways. There is no harm in adding a special element to your letter, but don’t feel pressured to create drastically different letters each time. The creative obligation can become overwhelming and you wouldn’t want it to be the reason your letter production slows down! Write from the heart and you can never go wrong.
That really is the golden rule in all of this: Write from the heart. The key is to WRITE. Write, write, write and enjoy those response letters. There’s no emotional equivalent to seeing one of those little white envelopes in the mail! Especially the first one. Who would have known in this modern world that sometimes the best kind of communication is good old-fashioned letters? Go write some!
For help with that, take a peek at my post about properly addressing Basic Training letters.