When you’re a new, young Army wife, you hear it all. “Wow, I could never do what you guys are doing!” “I didn’t think you were the military-type.” “Eh, time will fly by. He’ll be back before you know it!” “How are you going to afford anything on such a small paycheck?” “Let me guess…you guys got married for the money.” “Don’t you love that uniform?” The list goes on and on! But amid all the helpful and less-than-helpful comments are usually buried a few golden pieces of advice. Along the way, I heard a few secrets that really ended up being true about writing letters to my husband while he was at Army Basic Training.
1. Write Him EVERY DAY.
This was the best advice I ever got, hands down. It’s not that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to write him every day, but reading stories about girls who never missed a day really motivated me! I made it a point to never skip writing him, and it was amazing. Writing ended up being therapeutic for me. It was a good way for me to collect my thoughts at the end of the day. And it really helped build communication in our new marriage too. Because of the frequency of our letters, we didn’t have to sacrifice sharing the “little” things of every day life and also the “big things” that we needed to talk about: my job, our moving plans, etc. My husband said getting a letter from me every day (even a pile up from a few days of no-mail) was a huge morale booster and made all the difference in the world. He liked knowing that I made him a part of my day, every day, and I liked making him a part of my day.
2. Wait for the Commander’s Letter.
I had no idea what this was at first. During the first two 30-second phone calls he got, I thought he would tell me what his address was. Some girls thought they were supposed to get this from the Recruiter before their solidiers left. What I eventually came to find out is that the commander publishes a letter about 14 days after Basic Training begins. He waits until then, because by that time, the soldiers have almost completed their Red Phase (the tough and gruff phase that helps them detox from the world they have previously known). A lot of letters from home would interrupt the mental training they are putting the soldiers through, and so he purposefully waits to send the letter out for a bit. When it DOES arrive, it will have all the information you need to address your letter.
It is possible (likely) your soldier will have sent you a few letters before you get the commander’s letter. If your soldier is in Reception, his location is extremely temporary and will be changing within a week. He probably won’t even put a return address on his envelope. There is no mail distribution at Reception and so letters cannot be sent to soldiers during that time. If your soldier writes you from Basic Training camp, the return address he uses is all you need–as long as he remembered to put down his Unit information and roster number. In that case, you could technically send a response to that address, but again, your letters probably won’t be delivered until Red Phase is almost over. And it still might be prudent to wait until you get the Commander’s letter, just to verify that you have all the information needed to address your envelope. Read this for a detailed explanation on how to address them.
3. If You have Questions, Write those Last in your Letter, or as a PS.
This one helped me construct my letters a little more carefully. I tend to write down things as I think of them. But I learned it was so much easier for my husband to remember (and answer) my questions if I ended my letter with them. It’s a good rule to practice in any letter-writing circumstances, but is especially helpful for Basic Training letters. The soldiers’ free time is only an hour or so long in the evening, right before lights out. Their free time is split between doing laundry, writing you, reading your letters, and whatever else they need/want to do. So streamlining the information you need from them is just an extra way to make their life easier–and ensure you get the answers you need!
4. Number your Letters
Obviously, I wrote the date on the top of my letters. I also numbered the pages because I wrote long letters with identical stationary. Oops. But numbering my letters became really helpful during the times that mail call was skipped and my letters built up. My husband said it happened quite often that my letters would be delivered in a stack. I didn’t want to mark the outside of my envelope (see why here). But on the initial fold of each letter, I wrote the number of the letter as well as the date. While the date would work too, numbering the letters felt like a mini-countdown. My husband liked how easy it was to know which letter should be read first out of a stack of 11. Numbering probably wouldn’t be a super necessary step if you only write once a week or so, but if you write daily, consider numbering them!
5. Make a Letter Writing Station on your Desk
As I said, I was absolutely determined not to miss a day in writing my soldier. But the “secret” behind my success was setting aside a non-negotionable time every night to write him a letter. And I kept all my stationary needs well-stocked: stamps, paper, and pre-addressed envelopes. I know it sounds silly to pre-address envelopes. But I found that if I had everything “ready-to-go” then it was much less intimidating to sit down and write a letter. Even if I was tired, all I had to do was pull out a piece of paper and write a few thoughts or reflections down. Then everything else was all set-up. It also was rewarding to slowly use up my designated stack of envelopes or roll of stamps. I guess when you miss someone that much, any little daily countdown is a motivator! See this post for supplies I recommend keeping in your writing station!
In this world of advice-givers, you’ll probably run into a lifetime supply of opinions on how you should handle Basic Training as a loved one. It can be frustrating, especially when it’s coming from someone who has never been in your shoes. But as someone who has, hopefully something in here can help you the way it helped me. And if none of it helps, consider visiting one of these sources to get a better idea about Basic Training and letter-writing advice. If you have some words of wisdom of your own to share, please do so in the comment section below! One of your secrets could be the key to someone else’s Basic Training survival story. Thanks for stopping by!
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