What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day

What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day

 

I’ve been meaning to do a post about this for a while.  And since today is the 3-year anniversary of my husband’s “Turning Blue” ceremony, I thought it was fitting to do that post now!  This might have quite a few cross-overs from my What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training, but that’s just because visiting your training soldier has similar boundaries, no matter what the occasion is.  It’s still a very different event, and one I will always remember fondly!

 

What Turning Blue Is:

It’s the day that your infantry soldier-in-training receives the blue cord that all infantrymen wear on their dress uniform.  Without getting into the history behind it, the blue cord is a significant military decoration that designates them as infantrymen.  It’s the proud symbol your soldier earns for serving in the Army as an infantryman.  It’s a really special occasion when they earn it!  The Turning Blue Ceremony celebrates that moment.  You can read a bit more about why they wear the blue cord here.

 

What Turning Blue is Not:

It’s technically not a graduation.  Your soldier has completed his AIT and is now ready to graduate.  This is his award ceremony, but his actual graduation day is usually the day after the Turning Blue Day.  It’s also not a full “day-off” for your soldier.  He will get to see you at his ceremony, and will most likely spend the entire day with you.  But just like for his Family Day pass, he won’t be able to spend the night with you.  The soldiers aren’t officially released from their Basic Training Camp until after they graduate.

 

When the Turning Blue Ceremony Occurs:

This usually occurs the day before Graduation Day, in the morning.  It’s such a pivotal part to your soldier’s career and graduation, that they set aside a day dedicated to celebrating it.  The ceremony itself isn’t long, but you are given the entire day to spend with your soldier, commemorating his induction into the “Brotherhood” of the Infantry.

 

The Turning Blue Day Schedule:

Each company may run their ceremonies a little differently.  But you can expect some kind of schedule like this:

  • 7:30 am – Doors open for the families to receive a quick briefing of the day
  • 8:00 am – Seating begins for the Turning Blue Ceremony
  • 8:15 am – Turning Blue Ceremony begins (the soldiers march in)
  • 9:00 am – Soldiers are released from the ceremony and get to spend the day with you!!
  • 7:45 pm – Drop off your soldier back at his training camp
  • 8:00 pm – Soldiers must be IN formation or else they might not be allowed to graduate the next day

 

Who can Attend the Turning Blue Ceremony:

Anyone.  Family, fiancees, significant others, friends, etc.  When I attended, they did give a bit of priority seating to the wives/fiancees.  There were no name tags on the chairs, but it was announced that the closest seating was intended for the wives attending that morning.

 

Who can Participate in the Turning Blue Ceremony:

Again, any one particular person (chosen by the soldier) can participate.  It can be a spouse, significant other, parent, child, friend, etc.  Your soldier will probably have talked to you ahead of time (not that morning, but on the phone previously or over a letter) about who he wants to participate in the ceremony.

I have heard some say that there are a few soldiers there who have no one visiting them to place the cord on their uniform.  If you see someone putting the cord on himself, and want to offer to help, it’s entirely up to you!  Some might really like receiving the award from another pair of hands, and others are more than happy to do the honor themselves.    It’s certainly okay to at least offer!

 

 How do You Participate in the Turning Blue Ceremony:

If your soldier selects you, it will be your honor to place the blue cord on his sleeve!  He will have been given the blue cord ahead of time by the drill sergeants (YOU don’t have to purchase the blue cord or bring one with you).  The master of ceremonies will announce the time during the ceremony during which the blue cords are to be placed on the soldiers.  This is the moment you get to walk up to your soldier!  And don’t worry, they don’t do it one-at-a-time.  It’s a big mob of family members stepping forward to place the blue cords at the same time.  You don’t have to do it in unison with the other family members, or anything like that.  It’s a relaxed but very special moment during the ceremony where you and your soldier get to interact.

You will step forward from your seating and approach your soldier (who will have been in a tight formation up until this point, but it will now relax).  He will take the blue cord out of his pocket and give it to you.  You will slide it up his right arm, and fasten the stay-loop on the button on his uniform (he will point out both the loop and the button to you).  It’s easy–there is no need to have practiced ahead of time (plus you won’t have seen each other before the ceremony).  After you have placed the blue cord on him, he is an infantryman!  At that point, you can shake hands, embrace, kiss, or take a quick selfie with your newly-minted infantryman.  Then you must return to your seat as the ceremony concludes.

 

Dress Code for the Turning Blue Ceremony:

There isn’t an official dress code for you.  But your soldier will be in his “dress blues.”  It is the equivalent of the civilian suit, so you can dress professionally and that will not be considered overdressing.  However, the ceremony often takes place outside.  So dressing casually isn’t inappropriate either for Georgia weather 98% of the time.  🙂  The Turning Blue ceremony I attended was in an outdoor pavilion in November, so there was shade and seating, and it was a bit cold.  A final note: your soldier will be required to wear his dress blues the rest of the day (when he is in public).  So you’ll be going places with him in his dress uniform all day.  That’s just something to keep in mind as you’re planning your own attire!

 

Rules for Families on the Turning Blue Day:

There aren’t really any extraordinary rules for the ceremony itself.  You can take pictures, applaud at appropriate times, and participate during the actual blue cord placement.  It’s pretty much the couresty rules you expect at anyone’s ceremony: dress appropriately, be silent, don’t bring pets, and enjoy yourself!

But the rest of the day does have some boundaries. They are pretty much the same rules as the Family Day rules.  So if you attended that, then you know what to expect!  I’ll list them again here (this is not an exhaustive list, but its the basics):

  • Do not go anywhere on the training grounds except where the signs and aides tell you to go. You are NOT allowed to go into your soldier’s barracks. There will be a signs directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the briefing area. After the briefing in the classroom, you will be directed to the site of the ceremony.  Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
  • After the ceremony, you have to be the driver.  The soldiers aren’t permitted to drive for safety reasons.  They haven’t driven in 14 weeks (nor have they explored the Army post or surrounding town) and the drill sergeants don’t want them to drive in unknown territory for fear of injury or getting lost.
  • You can’t go very far away with your soldier. He will have mile restrictions (usually a 25-mile radius).  Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty to do within the restriction!  Your soldier will just be thrilled to be leaving the training area to celebrate with you.  It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.

 

Rules for the Soldiers on the Turning Blue Day:

The rules during the ceremony are things your soldier will have already been briefed on.  When he is standing in formation during the ceremony, he will not be able to look around and spot you, wave, or talk.  It’s tough because you haven’t gotten to see each other before the ceremony, or the day before!  He won’t have been able to see you until the actual ceremony when he marches in. But again, don’t worry about the rules he has for the ceremony, because he will already know them through and through.

The rules for AFTER the ceremony are unfortunately many.  They are pretty much identical to the ones from Family Day.  Note: this isn’t a complete list (and they can vary from battalion to battalion) but you and your soldier will definitely be told these rules ahead of time!

  • The soldier cannot drink alcohol AT ALL, nor can he smoke.
  • He can not wear anything besides his dress uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes).  That includes his head gear (the black beret) if he is outdoors.
  • As stated above, he is not allowed to drive AT ALL. Nor is he allowed to travel outside a certain mile radius.
  • Though it’s a strange rule, he is not allowed to sit on the ground (don’t ask… I think it has something to do with soldierly bearing while wearing a dress uniform.  Not to mention he has to wear it to graduation the next day).
  • He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
  • Until he is dismissed from the ceremony, he cannot leave the training area.
  • He can’t return late (missing the return formation).  Big BIG punishments could await him (like not graduating).

 

Final Thoughts on the Turning Blue Day:

This is a very special day, both for your soldier and for you!  Don’t over-stress about how the actual ceremony will go.  It’s a really nice one, and the master of ceremonies will keep it all on beat.  When it’s time for you to place the blue cord on your soldier, everyone will be paying attention to their own soldier–so don’t worry about having an audience or making a mistake.  Your soldier will know exactly how to place the blue cord on, and will instruct you as you go.  Just enjoy the moment because you will both remember it forever.

And once the ceremony is over, your infantryman is yours for the day!!  Spend the time celebrating his accomplishments, and get excited because the next day is his actual graduation.  That is again a really big and important day in the life of your soldier.  And if you only remember one thing from this post, remember this: the blue cord means your soldier is now an infantryman!  That in itself is a great accomplishment, and one that will shape his entire service time.  He really deserves the Turning Blue ceremony, so enjoy it together!

Thank you so much for stopping by!  If you have any Turning Blue stories to share, or questions to ask, please leave a comment below.  Your feedback is always valued.  I hope you’ll come back soon!

 

*Read next: 10 Things I Learned During Our First “Real” PCS*

 

 

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10 Things I Learned During Our First “Real” PCS

10 Things I Learned During Our First Real PCS

After moving 10 times (Army brat life), I thought I pretty much had the whole PCSing thing down pat. (For non-military fam readers, PCS means Permanent Change of Station, and it’s the military term for moving from place to place). Then I made my first official move as an Army wife and learned that I didn’t actually have it all down pat. Big surprise. <–not really.

One important note: this is actually our second “move” but it’s still our first real PCS. It’s the first time that we were being sent somewhere, by the Army, during which they fully helped us with the move (giving us time, resources, etc). Our first move deserves a blog post of it’s own, but to put it simply: it was one of those scrappy throw-your-goods-in-a-Uhaul-and-drive kind of deals that happened in a 48-hour period. We had just gotten married and were moving in together, at our new assignment. This time around, we were given a whole month’s notice to move *gasp!* So this PCS was basically great. Kind of.

Anyway, despite the big “notice” we had ahead of the PCS, and the fact that it was to be my 11th move, I learned a lot.  Quite a bit more than I thought I would, and I plan to keep these things in mind for our next move. Which is scheduled to be in the next 6 months. We shall see if that actually happens or not!

1. Things happened fast.

I wasn’t anticipating such a great (read: TIMELY) moving team. They packed AND moved us in 1 day. That rarely happens. Ever. And their drop-off day was 3 business days after pick-up. That’s also a little (read: VERY) unusual. We literally sat in our apartment and within the same day, it was completely boxed up and emptied out. When we got to our next station, everything was unloaded and in our new house within a week of when it was taken from our apartment. I was utterly impressed. And grateful because I had horrible morning sickness. #9weekspregnant

2. Everything goes.

I knew the packers would pack everything besides perishables and liquids. But on our end of the process, I wasn’t expecting to take everything. We donated one trunkful of items, and threw away quite a bit of open food, but that was it. (Note: sorting through food is NOT a first-trimester-morning-sickness-friendly activity. I do not recommend it). I had totally planned to do a grand and rigorous pack-n-purge before the move. But it turns out I was in the early stages of my second pregnancy when we moved and morning sickness was way too much of an obstacle. We just ended up taking everything, and that was okay in the end. It was nobody’s fault but my own, but I realized that for next move, things aren’t going to throw themselves out! haha

3. Not everyone wants pizza 3 meals a day.

Crazy, right?  Jk.  I didn’t think about how often the packers/movers are offered pizza. It was too hard not to feed the crew because there they were, working in my house all day. But I wish I would have REALLY asked them what they wanted, because no family of three needs $40 worth of pizza. haha They were gracious but pretty much hardly partook of the meal. I learned from this, especially since some crews are understaffed (on purpose) and like to plow through the workday as fast as they can. In that case, maybe having grazable snacks and drinks on hand is more flexible for them, and for us.

4. The truth doesn’t always come out on the paperwork.

I learned this one the hard way.  The head packer told me straight to my face that he wouldn’t notate on paperwork that any of my furniture or belongings were damaged, unless they really were. He schmoozed us reassuringly, saying he didn’t want to just “cover” for his company and that they would accurately describe my items’ conditions. It was all talk. When I got my paperwork and all my belongings on the other side of the move, the paperwork was not accurate for many items. Almost every item that had even the slightest bit of value was marked as damaged and some items were severely misrepresented. To the point that I was like… “Wait, are we even talking about the same item? If my electric keyboard was this horrendously mangled, it wouldn’t even turn on.” It was frustrating to say the least.

5. The paperwork was more detailed than I thought.

While the “conditions” section of the paperwork was heavily inaccurate, I was shocked at how descriptive the paperwork was (in a good way). Any item not in a box, was listed (strollers, chairs, baskets, guitars, table legs, etc.) by name.  And the boxes were all vaguely described as well. I thought we would just have 45 identical boxes with “bedroom” or “living room” marked on them. But no! Each (numbered) box was also given a brief/vague description on paperwork. This made hunting for lost items infinitely easier during the unpacking phase!

6. Things I packed got repacked.

I had plastic storage tubs of winter clothes, college papers, Army equipment, etc. And some bins they left as-is. But others they dumped out and filled with other items that they wanted in tubs. They repacked some of my Christmas decor that we had already packed in cardboard boxes. (<–they didn’t want to be liable for any poor packing on my part).

I also heard a common moving trick is to cling wrap dressers and drawer units, with everything in them. It’s supposed to cut down on time and boxes. That Pinterest hack didn’t quite reach my moving team. But I suppose moving companies can’t take that kind of contents damage risk and so every. single. drawer. was emptied into a box (or 5 boxes). Basically, moral of the story is don’t spend a lot of time packing things yourself, because they will get repacked. And don’t bother organizing your drawers before the move because everything will be taken out of them.

7. It’s hard to lose a box.

I’m not trying to sound like a newbie. I know TONS of people have horror stories of losing important or special items during a move. One day, I will probably join their hallowed ranks. But I pictured our belongings being shoved on a big truck that had other people’s belongings on them.  I figured we would just have to keep our fingers crossed that, when they arrived at our new house, the majority of our boxes would still be on the truck. Our apartment was so small though that we had our own moving truck (not shared) and it was never opened once the packers closed the door for good. It stayed locked up and arrived at our new destination, untouched.

And at our new destination, I was given a sheet (the infamous aforementioned paperwork) and crossed off EVERY SINGLE ITEM (box or loose item) as they were carried into the new house. It was impossible to be missing something, because I literally approved of every item being brought inside, and had total awareness if something hadn’t been brought in yet.  Again, years (and moves) later I will probably be laughing at this after losing a good couple of boxes and items during a PCS.  But for now, I’m riding on the coattails of our previous success and am feeling really great that it was so easy to keep track of our goods.

8. Our hotel bills were reimbursed.

I didn’t quite realize this would happen.  After our first move, we got quite a bit of money reimbursement for “moving ourselves.” We were given a surplus of money that way covered our actual expenses. I thought that since this move was completely paid for by the military, that we wouldn’t get any compensation besides the requisite DLA (Dislocation Allowance Pay–it’s basically consolation money for having to pick up and move houses, which gets expensive because the little things add up). Turns out, the Army paid for our hotels AND our pet fees in retrospect. (Note: they reimburse you for up to 10 days, but we didn’t need all 10).  And that hotel money had nothing to do with the DLA, which we also got.  Yay!

9. I hate boxes.

I didn’t quite comprehend just how much of a pain it would be to get all those boxes broken down and out of our house. Remember my “to-do” list entry from last month? Yeah, that’s because we ended up storing all the empty boxes (full of packing paper) in our unused basement storage room, since bulk trash is on an every-two-weeks schedule. We needed somewhere to put them, but once they were out of sight, out of mind…they just lived there in our basement. Turns out we are just finally clearing the boxes out now. We moved in April. *sigh*

10. The movers rebuild your life and your house for you.

Kind of.  Basically, besides carrying everything back inside, the movers will also rebuild any furniture that was taken apart.  Maybe that’s not surprising to some, but I was in happy shock.  I knew they would put all the boxes and everything in the appropriate rooms. But our movers went above and beyond that.  They actually reassembled furniture.  I have a mini crib that is IMPOSSIBLE to build. I was dreading anything happening to it. But the packers/movers on one end took it apart, and the movers on the other end put it back together. A total relief!  Especially because I’m going to be needing that crib soon! <3

If you’ve already PCS’d quite a few times, maybe you already knew all these things. Or maybe you’re laughing because you know they will never, EVER happen again to me. I’m okay with that–I fully expect every move to be wildly different. And I know moving companies themselves have totally different procedures and policies. Hence why after 10 moves, I still was surprised by some things this time around. But if you haven’t PCS’d a million times, maybe some of these sound surprising to you too.  I’d love to know what experiences you’ve had with PCSing.  Please leave a comment below!  And thanks for stopping by!

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Military Wife Must-Haves

 

Military Wife Must-Haves

I’m sure everyone has their go-to’s when it comes to kitchenware, beauty, fashion, etc.  I definitely have a running list in each category!  Kitchenaid ANYTHING for starters.  But then there are those things that don’t necessarily fit under the same category (or any) but tend to share one common theme: they are must-haves if you’re a military spouse.  Some of these have been gifted to me, some I have bought for other, and some I have bought for myself!  They are either “necessities” for getting through the military lifestyle we live, or they are the perfect way to embrace and celebrate it.  Do you have any of these?

 

1. Address Book

It’s no secret I’m a firm believer in stationary, especially as an Army wife.  But this one isn’t actually meant for all those Basic Training love letters you write.  I have found that the frequent moves (both of our family and our military friends) has created a great need for change-of-address organization.  I think the Kate Spade address book is a cute and classy way to do it.  However, there is a pretty cheeky address book that leaves room for nicknames and shoe sizes.  And then of course there is a classic and more tame little pink book version.  Take your pick and fill it up!

 

2. Push-pin Travel Map

Speaking of moving around, you will probably fill up one of these too!  A push-pin map of the USA not only gives you a visual reality-check on just how many times you’ve set up a home somewhere, but it also is a great way to document your lifetime of travel.  If you want to go all-out (or if you are lucky enough to live overseas) a push-pin map of the world is also a beautiful career display.

 

3.  American Flag

I feel like this is the initiation gift that every military wife should receive, or gift to her husband!  It’s the perfect salute and symbol of what your family stands for.  Fly it proudly outside your home!  And if you have an apartment and no balcony (like my first 2 years of our marriage), then hang it as a wall tapestry behind your couch or in your dining room.  It’s still a beautiful way to celebrate your lifestyle and the country we are all so proud of.  A final option, though it’s a little less visible, is to invest in a glass flag case and keep your folded flag displayed in it.  A very classic, very respectful display of the flag!  If you want the whole flagpole kit, and not just the flag, this is all you need.

 

4. The Army Wife Handbook: A Complete Social Guide

For all my Army girls out there!  There is a complete set of “social rules” and expectations that come with the territory of being an Army wife.  And navigating through those can be tough!  This guide is geared towards etiquette and social obligations, which I find to be one of the least “discussed” topics among Army wife literature.  It’s not really a crash-course about acronyms and what to expect on deployments, which is what this book covers.  But the social rules can be really tough to “pick up” naturally, and having a guidebook is extremely helpful.

 

5. The 5 Love Languages ~ Military Edition

I’m not saying this because I’m a love-book junkie (thought I am), I’m saying this because every military relationship deserves a book celebrating and coaching the tumultuously beautiful journey of a military romance.  I have great respect for Gary Chapman’s interpretation of love languages and how they are spoken.  Even if you’re not a military couple, a firm understanding of how to identify your preferred language, and how to speak your spouses’s is extremely important.  The love languages are a true eye-opener in any relationship, but most significantly in a romantic one.  Curious what your love language is?  Take the test here.  (Then buy the book and learn about how you give and receive love based on it!)

6. His and Hers Silicone Wedding Bands

These are often more necessary for the military member than the spouse.  But for those of us that like having matching wedding bands, or who want to feel a special connection, getting a his and hers set is the way to go!  Wearing a metal wedding ring during training can sometimes be dangerous for your soldier (if he is paratrooper jumping out of an airplane, etc) and other times it can just be painful (pull-ups during PT).  Having a silicone option can be useful for your soldier to slip on before a training exercise, or before he leaves for an Army school if he worries about losing his real ring.  During those times, it can sometimes be nice to switch rings with him, not because you have to, but because he does.

7. Military Wife Jewelry

This one is pretty basic.  It’s like having a tee that supports your favorite sports team.  Everyone should have at least one.  Even if you’re not the kind of jewelry-wearer who wants a black and gold charm bracelet that says “Army” in capital letters, you can still have military-themed jewelry that supports your lifestyle.  (Like this Morse Code bracelet).  One of my favorite ways to connect with my soldier when he is gone is to wear a meaningful necklace or ring that reminds me of him.  When he went to Basic/OSUT in Ft. Benning, I wore a Georgia shaped ring every day.  Other times, even when he is home, I often wear sapphires, as their “Infantry Blue” color celebrates the lifestyle we have chosen together.  Get creative with the meanings and treat yourself to some bling!

8. Amazon Home Services

Not a traditional must-have, but I put on because WHO hasn’t had their fridge break an hour or two after their soldier leaves for a few weeks? *raises hands*  My internet goes out when he is gone, computers crash, and of course some kind natural disaster occurs (Hurricane striking the NIGHT that he leaves).  #myreallife.  Anyway, Amazon can’t control the weather, but they CAN and DO offer home services.  Meaning no matter where you live in the US, you can have someone come over and fix your problem when your soldier isn’t home to do so.  Seriously, they have tons of services: from mounting TVs to painting the baby nursery to ASSEMBLING FURNITURE.  Basically, they’re the magic fairies we always hoped would exist.  Now they do.  Click here to browse their services!

I feel like there are a million military wife must-haves…haha…but that’s really not true.  The only thing I must have is my soldier by my side!  And of course my babies.  And my faith.  Okay, so there are a few biggies.  But the small things can be really fun too, and can make the military wife life a lot easier!  What is a must-have for you?  Leave a comment below, sharing your faves!  Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.

*Note: the links I provided are affiliate links*

Read next: My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing to My Soldier

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6 Things Army Wives Hate About War Movies

5 Things Army Wives HATE About War Movies

 

So we don’t have “every” war movie–but we go through seasons of “being able” to watch them and avoiding them at all costs.  Can you relate?  These are a few reasons why we feel that way…

1. We hate how they remind us of the realities our husbands face.

Every Army wife knows her husband could (or in some positions, will) face a dangerous situation.  We know that deployments are an inevitable part of the job.  But we try not to spend our days thinking about that.  During our non-deployment seasons of life, we try not to live in fear of the what-could-be future.  That isn’t to say we pretend it isn’t going to happen.  But we choose to not live in fear.  Our husbands live out life with courage, and so do we.  Watching a movie that centers around the possibilities our loved one could face (or has already faced) are sometimes an unnecessary “reality check” we don’t appreciate.

2. We hate how accurate they are.

I know not all movies are accurate–by any stretch of the imagination.  But there are war movies that really nail one aspect or another of combat, deployment, high stress situations, etc.  Once again, we know it exists.  Many of our husbands have lived through that, and in a different way, we have lived a tiny part of it through them.  Getting an extremely vivid experience of something that is a reality for us hits home in a tough way.  It’s not entertainment, it’s just a visually aggressive portrayal of something we already think, feel, or experienced.

3. We hate how inaccurate they are.

There is nothing more annoying than a movie which attempts to display the accomplishments of the US Army, the feelings of a soldier, or the relationship in an Army family–and completely falls flat.  Sometimes it’s borderline disrespectful.  Most of the time though it’s just irritating.  Okay, maybe some points are laughable, considering how wrong they get it!  But really, with so many civilians who can’t even fathom the rhythm of the Army and the experiences of our families, it’s nothing short of frustrating to have our lives and our soldier’s accomplishments smeared across the screen in some kind of attempt at vainglory or Hollywood cheese.

4. We hate watching the wife and children cope and struggle because it is all too familiar.

Some things really get to you on a mental level.  You see a soldier saying goodbye to his comrade in a fast-paced, sweaty, all-too-soon 3o second interval.  And you look over at your soldier and can’t help but wonder who he is thinking of.  Did he go through that with a battle buddy, or does he sometimes think of saying goodbye to you?  You get caught in a mental struggle.  But then to see a wife or her children attempt to make it through the emotional trauma of war and separation hits you on another level.  It’s no longer a mental struggle.  You are engaged emotionally in the movie as you literally watch your own thoughts and feelings pulled across the screen.  You feel worn out and drained.  The hour or two you spend watching her world fall apart, pulls at the emotional balance of yours for that short period of time.  You have been there, and you just can’t help but feel so many of those feelings all over again.

5. We hate war movies because it’s way too “everyday” to be called entertainment for us.

Okay so for most Army families, war movies are not a script of their lives.  But still, we spend all day living on post, washing uniforms, and cooking dinner alone: living-sleeping-breathing the Army.  Which don’t exactly mind.  But when it’s time to settle down for some entertainment, we don’t want to watch more Army stuff!  It’s time to break out the RomComs or family flicks!  This is definitely a personal preference thing–but I don’t see how something that’s all business for us can become a form of entertainment, no matter how appealing the scenery or soundtrack is.  It’s kind of like watching a movie about running 500 errands on a Saturday, when that’s your current weekend routine!

6. We hate the reception war movies get by the civilian public.

The only thing more annoying than an inaccurate movie, is a glowing reception from the public about how “moving” and “great” a cheesy war movie is.  On the flip side, it’s also just as upsetting to watch an “accurate” war movie, and hear the public tear the military to pieces because of the exposure they happened to glimpse.  Either way, it can be pretty upsetting to read reviews about war movies.  Almost as upsetting as watching them ourselves…

Did I miss something, Army wives?  What is it that you don’t like about war movies?  Or if you’re in a season of watching them, please share a comment below about how you’re feeling when watching!  Thanks for reading and come back soon!

 

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5 Ways to Save Money in the Military

 

Whether you’re a military family or not, saving money is probably something your enthusiastic about.  And most of those “how to save money” hacks are applicable for military and civilian families.  But, there are some ways to save money that are specific to military families only!  Go us!  🙂  Today I rounded up my 5 favorites:

1.  Live Off-Post

I’m putting this one first because it has the power to be the singular MOST effective way to save money.  Obviously, you could purchase a house well beyond your means and it would only be a financial sabotage.  Or pay rent/bills above your BAH, and that would also be ineffective and detrimental.  But I suggest researching your BAH (literally, google it) and then shop for houses whose monthly average cost (including upkeep) is lower than your BAH.  If you set aside $200 of your BAH every month for only a year, that would still be $2400 in savings.  It adds up!

 2.  Check the LES Monthly

Errors, overpay, underpay, unfair withdrawals…don’t wait and get money revoked!  This one is unfortunately not a guaranteed “money-maker,” but it can be.  It can be an extremely effective preventative against losing money that is supposed to be yours.  One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from wives is that their soldier is incorrectly charted for eating on the DeFac meal plan (aka: the family isn’t receiving their BAS–basic allowance for sustenance).  Fix it!  The Army will backpay you for ANY missed funds, so be diligent to get all the money you deserve!  But don’t let the Army accidentally overpay you either.  If your soldier is no longer supposed to be receiving jump pay, but is–fix it!  The Army always, always, always notices, and it’s a big headache (and heartache) to have to backpay the Army for months of unearned pay.

3.  Save All Military Clothing

My word of advice: don’t throw ANYTHING out.  Save the “not-so-favorite” socks and uniforms for packing lists, field uniforms, etc.  There may be times where he has to have a pre-packed bag full of items, and he won’t want all of his favorites to be in there.  He also probably won’t want to shell out the cash to purchase dozens of brand new items that are going to go straight into his pre-packed bag, completely unused.  Those mandatory packing lists are the perfect place to stuff old and used items that he isn’t going to need available in his locker.  The best part about old?– FREE! Occasionally (again, extremely infrequently) he will get to trade in some of his items for new items.  This rarely happens.  But when it does, you don’t want to be missing some items that you are supposed to be trading in.  Also, you don’t want to have to pay out of pocket for something he is supposed to be turning in, but no longer owns!

4.  Use the Free Resources the Army Gives You

Did you know that the Army offers discounted tickets to many, many events around the country?  This is not just a military discount at Disney World (though boy do they offer deals on that!)  The MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation association) has an entire ticket chart offering discounts at various attractions around the country–for things as small as tour rides in Savannah to things as big as passes at Universal Studios.  Look into the MWR ticket offers before you make big purchases!  Also, the Army offers a variety  of free workshops– resume builders, career networking, etc.  You can earn scholarships as dependents (wives and children) and get financial aid for school.  The list goes on and on.  While you will still have some fees to pay, many of the paid-clubs on military installations are a fraction of the cost of their civilian opponents.  If you’re looking for a casual soccer league for your children, or a summer pool pass, definitely look into the opportunities on post before you decide to go elsewhere.

5.  Look to the Army’s Opportunities to Lessen your Financial Debt

Do you have college loans?  There are *some* programs that can help pay for those <– for the soldier’s loans at least.  Do you have high car insurance and credit card interest on your account?  You can get those refinanced through a military banking source.  Navy Federal has one of the best rates for car payment interest, and USAA offers some of the best credit card deals.  There is also a Military Star Card that offers On-Post discounts on gas and shopping.  Look into the military options you qualify for because they can almost always shave off some of the debt and bills that your past civilian life heaped upon you.

It goes without saying that any department store you shop at is a good place to ask for a military discount.  Don’t be shy!  It’s your right as a military dependent–and there is no shame in flaunting that.  You’re not begging for a free handout, you’re giving stores the opportunity to [willingly] show their support of our troops!  Unfortunately, many stores do not offer military discount (don’t ask me why…grrr).  But there are more ways to save money than a token 10% discount on four tee-shirts at Old Navy.  <–they have a great military discount program for the record.  Do you have any techniques?  Share them in the comment section below!

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My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing to My Soldier

My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing Letters to my Soldier

*This post contains affiliate links!*

Whether you just recently said goodbye to your soldier-to-be, or you’re swimming in those long weeks of Basic Training separation, writing letters to your man is probably a part of your life right now.  For me personally, writing letters became a very strong form of communication (funny how that works when everything else gets limited), and crucial to our relationship’s growth.  It was also romantic and that’s totally my thing.  haha Anyway, something I have mentioned before is that having a letter-writing station helped me never miss a day of writing.  But I never really shared what my letter-writing station consisted of.  A few of the items listed below are things I didn’t have, but really, really wish I did.  (No worries, they will all make an appearance on my nightstand during Ranger School– *sigh*).  Leave a comment at the end if you have any additional stationary supplies to reccommend.  Good luck to you and all your writing endeavors!

 

Address Stencil

If you’ve clicked around on my site before, you’ve probably heard me mention this.  It’s the perfect little tool to make the outside of any envelope look beautiful.  (ESPECIALLY if you’re using regular white business envelopes, like me).  A stencil can make all the difference in keeping everything straight and fancy.  Plus they are fun to use.

Address Stamp

But in case you are not a calligraphy-type person (ahem, hello–still aspiring there), this little address stamp can achieve much of the same elegance!  It’s a time saver and requires little to no skill (yay!).  I liked using stamps as a heading to my letters, for decoration purposes, but this stamp would be functional as well as cute.  I wish I had gotten one of these for my wedding stationary!

Roller Stamp

Roller stamps are an easy way to mark the date and number of your letters. I know most people would just say, “Um…isn’t that what the date is for?” and they are right.  But this is where practicality meets art-inspo.  My soldier’s letters would often arrive in clumps of 3 or more identical envelopes, and I didn’t want him to crack the letter open, see the date, and just start reading whatever letter he had grabbed.  Maybe I’m OCD about order.  Anyway, I created a paper band and would fold it around my letters with the “letter number” stamped on the outside of the band.  So that despite whichever envelope he opened (they all looked the same!) he could see the date/number stamped on the band and unfold whichever letter he had last left off on.

 


Fun Stamps

Onto a completely different kind of stamp–I think personal interest stamps, like these planets, are a great way to specialize a letter.  I think I might have sent my husband a few patriotic stamps while he was at Basic Training.  But for the most part, I would buy the most romantic stamps I could find (hearts, wedding ones, etc).  If those weren’t available, I tried to find another stamp that he would see and think of me.  One time I got a sheet of oil-painted landscapes, and another time I got botanicals.  I felt like this little touch of personalization would make him think of me on first sight.  You can even self-design stamps: use a picture of the two of you, a photo of your pet, or some object of significance that no one will recognize but the two of you.  Follow this link to order your own.

 

Basic White Envelopes

If you’ve read any of my mailing-to-Basic-Training guideline posts, you probably know I have a thing for white envelopes.  They might be super lame and super basic.  But it makes me feel so comfortable knowing my letters aren’t drawing any attention!  Obviously, if you use cards, these envelopes would be too narrow and unnecessarily long.  But if you’re like me and like using standard 8×11 stationary paper, these envelopes are perfect for being generically inconspicuous! ha!

Large Stationary Paper

Again, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve said about Basic Training letters, you might have realized I’m super wordy.  And that didn’t change when it came to writing my soldier at bootcamp.  hehe, oops.  I LOVED using large, standard size sheets of decorative paper.  The cute cards that were temptingly gorgeous were also too cramped for my daily letter-writing needs.  I felt like writing front and back on the card would make it look overwhelming and busy.  And it would kind of kill the cute and gorgeous thing.  So, I just used 8×11 paper, as decorative as I could find it, and filled page after page.  The size of these really gave me the room I need to write and to spread things out.

Inspirational Cards

I do have a soft spot for cards though.  And I did sometimes send them!  They perfectly convey “I miss you” without becoming a novel about how, why, and when you miss your special someone. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that–but that usually made it into my everyday-letters).  These are especially helpful if you pass a milestone during your soldier’s time in Basic Training (i.e. his birthday, your anniversary, a holiday).  It switches up your regular paper stationary with something a little extra special.  It becomes something he can grab from his locker and read before bed more than one night in a row.  Cards can be especially effective if your soldier’s love language involves words of affirmation, because cards naturally come with the connotation of care and appreciation.

  Envelope Glue

I hate, hate, hate licking envelopes!  (And can only ever think of the Seinfeld episode whenever I have to lick one, haha).  The sticky part of the peel-and-stick envelopes only sometimes work for me.  I pretty much use a few pieces of scotch tape on the outside of my envelopes, no matter what method of closure they have.  Or at least, I did.  Now I use this roller glue and OMGEE it sticks.  It makes a difference.  It’s good stuff.  And if you keep the cap on, it will stay moist and last a really, really long time.

Mechanical Pencils

I’m a pencil girl at heart, and love the flexibility of erasing.  <- for anyone who ISN’T currently in a pen-pal relationship with a soldier at Basic Training, skip this because I’m going to look crazy as I rant for a minute here.  Proceed with caution: sometimes writing a letter can be emotional.  You’re trying to be positive but there are some negatives you have to talk about.  You go on a tangent about something that happened at work and then realize you need to tone it down so that your letter doesn’t come off with an alarmist ring.  The last thing you want is to stress him out.  So you start changing an entire paragraph.  Anyway, pencils are my jam and they saved my skin because I definitely am a committer of “automatic writing.”  I write everything I’m feeling and then a few sentences in realize I need to change direction.  Enter little pencil.  And more importantly, little pencil eraser.

 

Colored Pens

Nothing says “commitment” like permanent ink.  These are not for the faint of heart (see above).  But they are for the creative and collected girl who wants to vary the color and overall look of her letters.  One of my favorite ways to customize a letter is by switching up the ink color.  Even though I’m really a pencil girl at heart, pens can be a creative way to vary your letters at a low cost.  I also happen to have horrible handwriting and write super long letters, so mixing up the paragraph colors can make the letter easier to read after a long day.

Stationary Organizer

A huge key to “making that daily letter happen” is definitely setting up a letter-writing station.  I know this sounds silly, but again, if you’re knee-deep in those long Basic Training months, you’ll understand what I mean.  Writing a letter isn’t always the hard part.  It’s having enough stamps on hand, the right envelopes, and general organization that sometimes makes or breaks the letter getting out.  I kept a stack of about 10 pre-addressed envelopes on my desk, beside my stamp sheet and pen mug.  It made writing letters a breeze, because I knew the only thing standing in my way between getting the letter out or not was simply if I indeed had something to PUT in that envelope at the end of the night.  It was motivating to see the envelope stack diminish over the week, and that level of organization kept me accountable.  It’s definitely a main reason I was able to send him something every single day.

Like I said at the beginning, if you have a crucial or beloved stationary supply to recommend, please leave a comment below!  I think all of us here in the Army family are always open to suggestions!   And even a single comment can really give someone inspiration.   Thanks so much for stopping by, and please come back soon!

 

**Read next: How To Address a Basic Training Letter **

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Army Basic Training: Top 10 FAQs About Writing Letters

Top 10 FAQs About Writing Letters to Your Soldier at Basic

A few years ago, I had my fair share of questions about writing letters to my soldier while he was at Basic Training.  Luckily, I wasn’t alone.  Pretty much everything I wanted to know had been asked at one time or another by someone before me.  I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions that a lot of us have had about writing letters to our soldiers-in-training.   Are any of your questions on the list?

  1. Why Hasn’t He Gotten My Letter?

There is a multitude of reasons for this, but the main answer is usually pretty simple.  The mailroom gets overfilled and it takes a few extra days for the letters to get sorted and distributed among the men.  But if your not sure if that’s the issue, I wrote a whole post on what could possibly go wrong between his mailbox and yours.

     2. Why Hasn’t He Included His Return Address?

If he hasn’t included his return address, it’s almost always because he is still in Reception.  That’s the first 7-10 days after your soldier leaves.  It’s technically not “part” of the 10 weeks of Basic, but it’s inevitable.  Reception is essentially the “in-processing” of Basic, where your soldier is issued his equipment, gets his head shaved, learns basic formation moves, etc.  He might be allowed to write you, but you won’t be allowed to write him back, and hence, he won’t have a return address to include.  Once he arrives at Basic Training camp, he will be able to share his address with you.

     3. I Forgot to Include ___ in the Address.  Will He Still Get It?

This all depends on what you left out.  If you forgot to include his rank or first name, don’t worry, his roster number will cover for you (or in some cases, the “roster number” is the last 4 digits of their social security number).  If you forgot his roster number, but included his rank and full name, it’s a toss up.  Out of his unit’s official title, the most important part is his Company information (A, B, C, etc) and his Battalion number (X-XX IN BN <- for example).  The Company and Battalion designation are extremely important, but if you forget to add the IN BN after the number combination, your letter will still make it most likely.

    4. Do I Have to Wait for the Commander’s Letter?

If you have received a letter from your soldier, that includes his return address and his roster number (or platoon and class information, if that is needed)–then go for it!! Mail those letters!  Your letters might not be distributed to your soldier til around the time that the Commander’s Letter makes it to you.  🙁  That doesn’t mean you can’t mail them though.  If your soldier has provided you with his return address and roster number/unit information, there is no need to wait for the Commander’s Letter.

    5. Can I Send Him Photos?

The details of this are definitely subject to the opinions of each Drill Sergeant.  Soldiers are allowed to have pictures of their loved ones, in fact, they may be allowed to hang one or two on the outside of their locker.  However, some Drill Sergeants are particular about pictures being sent through the mail.  As long as the photos are appropriate, most Drill Sergeants will permit the soldier to keep them.  They will order the soldier to open the letter in front of them, however, to sensor the photos.  Once the photos have been screened, the soldier will most likely be allowed to keep them.  There is only one definitive rule held by all Drill Sergeants: no explicit images are permitted.  At all.  There is no Drill Sergeant that will allow this, as it is a strict Army rule, across the board.

    6. Can I Send Him Something Besides Letters: Cards, Newspaper, Clippings, Calendars, etc.?

This one is much like the question above.  It is dependent upon the Drill Sergeant.  As a general rule, reading material (besides the Bible and the letters you send) are not permitted to be kept by soldiers.  So sending two or three sports articles might not be okay.  Most do not allow magazines.  Something like a child’s drawing or a calendar diagram (for your soldier to mark off the days) would almost always be allowed.  All things– letters, calendars, cards, etc MUST be mailed in a standard envelope, however.

    7.  How Will the Drill Sergeant Know if I Sent Him Something He Can’t Have?

There may be a temptation to send something the soldier “can’t” have.  I’ve heard of people putting gum sticks or thin lingerie in the envelope (not even kidding you).   You may wonder, will the Drill Sergeant even know?  The Drill Sergeants know to look for abnormalities in the envelopes–extreme thickness, noise, lumps, etc.  One time, I had sent such a thick letter, the Drill Sergeant asked my husband to open the letter in front of him, assuming it was filled with photos.  It was just a big fat letter! haha I’ve always been too wordy.  But even IF you can sneak something into the envelope without it being noticeable, that doesn’t mean you’re safe.

The soldier can get in serious trouble for having contraband, as they call forbidden items.  Even if the Drill Sergeants didn’t notice it when it came through the mail, locker inspections happen periodically throughout Basic.  A stash of gum or explicit photos could get your soldier in huge trouble.  You might be sending him something with the best intentions, but it could have dire consequences.  Do not put your soldier at risk of being punished or recycled (having to start training all over again)– just don’t send it!

    8. Can I Send Him a Package?

Not to keep saying the same thing–but this is just dependent upon the Drill Sergeants.  The simple answer is this: you CAN send them, but he won’t be able to open them without permission (and overseeing) of the Drill Sergeants.  If, upon opening, the package is filled with candy, goodies, and other edible contraband, the Drill Sergeants may confiscate the contents on the spot.  Some Drill Sergeants have been known to allow the soldier to distribute the sweets among all the men, right then and there, with no leftover-storage allowed.   Other Drill Sergeants have eaten the goodies themselves!

When my husband was at training, I sent him his cell phone and charger in a small mailing box.  He told the Drill Sergeants ahead of time that it would be arriving, and what was in it.  While he still had to open the box in front of them, the Drill Sergeants let him keep the phone/charger.  (Thank goodness!)  Packages are just dependent upon the humor of the Drill Sergeants, as well as the contents of the package.

    9. Can I Send Him More Letter Writing Materials?

Theoretically, you can.  You won’t get in trouble for sending blank pages, and your soldier won’t get in trouble for having envelopes and paper in his locker.  But rest assured, you won’t need to do this.   There is a mini store (the PX) that your soldier will periodically have access to.  He will get to visit the store at the beginning of training, and a few times a month to restock on permissible needs- paper, envelopes, pens, and stamps included.

    10. Is There a Limit to How Many Letters I Can Send Him and How Long They Can Be?

There is definitely not a limit, in quantity or length!  As much as you can manage to write, send it.  Your soldier will never tire of or get overwhelmed by mail!  I talk more about facing personal letter-writing doubts here.  I would not hesitate to send as much mail as possible!  But keep in mind that about 10 days away from graduation, you might want to stop sending letters, in case they never make it to him.  With mailroom delays and the normal length of time it takes a letter to travel, there is a risk that a few letters won’t make it to him before graduation if you send them too close to that time.

There are so many more questions to be answered about writing letters to soldiers at Basic Training, but these are the top 10 I continually ran into during my own soul-searching.  Hopefully one of your own was on the list!  If you have any more, share below.  It’s always fun to see what others have wondered and what answers they discovered.  It all helps our Army Family!  Thanks for reading and please come back soon. 🙂

 

**Read next- How to Address a Basic Training Letter**

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Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn’t Gotten My Letters At Basic

Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn't Gotten My Letters At Basic

 

It’s one of the most frequently-asked questions of any Army loved-one when their soldier is at Basic Training.  Everyone wants to know if their letters ever made it to their soldier.  Or why they haven’t.  Or if they will.  And while nobody can know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of Basic Training camp, here are a few answers to help you through the fog that we have all been through.

 

Problem: He is Sending Me Letters, But Says He Hasn’t Received Mine

Solution:  If it’s still within 10 days of his departure from you, then he is still in a pre-Basic Training “phase” known as Reception.  It’s the soldiers’ first stage of being stripped down to the very core, where their personal backgrounds and circumstances fade, and they become a single unit of men training for the same objective.  It’s the stage where they are issued clothing, receive haircuts, and learn how to get into formation, etc.   Since this phase is so strict, there is no way that the soldiers can receive letters, in fact, you won’t even have their Reception address!  Note: they can send a few letters from Reception, which is why you are getting some, but they won’t include a return address.

If he has been gone for more than 10 days, but hasn’t been gone longer than 5 weeks, then he is in Red Phase.  It’s the first phase of Basic Training and supposedly the “hardest.”  I’m sure it varies from soldier to soldier.  But it’s the strictest phase during which they are introduced to the Army lifestyle.  It’s the phase that sets the tone for the soldier’s Basic Training experience.  Normally, letters and phone calls aren’t allowed during this phase, because the Drill Sergents are still in “breaking” mode.  Again, you might be receiving letters from your soldier, but he won’t be getting mail call until about two weeks into this phase.

 

Problem: I’m Not Sure If I Have the Right Address

Solution:  You have 3 options.

  • Wait to receive the Commander’s Letter.  It arrives at some time during Red Phase.  It will have the address EXACTLY as you need to write it (but make sure you get your soldier’s roster number, or platoon/class information if that is required instead of his roster number).
  • Copy your soldier’s return address EXACTLY as he writes it.   He won’t be able to write a return address until he is physically in Basic Training, (not Reception) so some waiting might ensue.  Your soldier’s way of writing his address might differ slightly from the Commander’s way, but both are accurate.  Just make sure you have the roster number/platoon or class information.
  • Get on the Facebook page of your soldier’s unit to see if the Commander’s Letter has been published there.  Make sure you have the right unit though, as they have very similar numeration.  If you don’t know the unit Facebook page, you can look up their training website where an address is often posted under FAQ’s.  Just remember, you will still need the roster number or platoon/class number!!

 

Problem:  I Never Got the Commander’s Letter

Solution:  The Commander sends out a letter but sometimes it gets sent to someone besides you (if you aren’t his primary point of contact).  Your soldier fills out a few different forms of contact during his in-processing at Reception.  If he put his parents or a sibling down as his primary kin, then they will more than likely receive any of the letters sent out by the unit.  You can of course get a copy of the Commander’s Letter by contacting that family member.  But that’s not always possible.

So, another solution is to find your soldier’s unit Facebook page and look for the memo posted there.  If you can’t find it the memo, consider connecting with a fellow family member on the Facebook page and ask for a copy of the Commander’s Letter.  Just remember that social media is not always a safe place for discussing military topics.  There are rules posted on the Facebook  pages about what can and can’t be said.  Always be careful and err on the side of caution…since it’s your soldier’s safety we are talking about here!

 

Problem: My Letters are Addressed Correctly, But He Isn’t Getting Them

Solution: If you’ve ruled out the possibility that he is still in either Reception or Red Phase, then there could be another very good reason.  There are portions of the training during which your soldier will be sleeping and training “in the field” (outdoors).  During that time, there is no mail call, and your soldier doesn’t get a chance to send letters out either.  Not to worry!  They build-up and are all eventually delivered in one big bundle.  But remember that the build-ups are company-wide, and so it could cause a delay in the sorting/delivery process.  Again, he WILL get them eventually, but that doesn’t mean he will always get them in a timely manner.  🙁

If your soldier doesn’t seem to be getting your letters, more than likely there has just been a significant delay in the mail sorting.  Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence at least once or twice during Basic Training.  It’s not done on purpose.  It’s a simple logistical issue of having mass quantities of letters arrive in the same distribution room.  There is no “delivery” process from the mail carrier to the individual soldiers–that’s the job of the Drill Sergeants.  And they have so many other tasks that sometimes mail call gets left behind.  Rest assured, the letters WILL arrive (as long as you have the right address and roster number!)

 

Problem:  I Think My Letters are Being Confiscated

Solution:  Your letters will never be confiscated, unless they contain something that is contraband: gum sticks, explicit photos, etc.  Your letters are US Mail and cannot be confiscated or discarded simply because the Drill Sergeant is trying to teach the soldiers a lesson.  To be honest, the letters MOTIVATE the soldiers much more than withholding them ever could.  The letters are the property of the soldiers, and the Drill Sergeants cannot just hold onto them for their own reasons.

When it does happen that your soldier isn’t getting his letters, it’s never that he is being singled out.  Sometimes, the soldiers (as a group) will get assigned a task at night in punishment for something they did or didn’t do during the day.  This task could get in the way of mail call.  But it’s not that mail call was restricted.  It’s just that training got in the way.    That’s pretty much the only kind of situation during which your mail will be “withheld” from your soldier (or if he is training in the field).   So out of all your concerns, assuming his letters are being confiscated is the least likely issue!

 

Problem:  I Think My Letters are Getting Him in Trouble

Solution:  You can’t get him in trouble for writing too frequently.  Don’t worry that you are “annoying” the Drill Sergeants.  They are well aware that the soldiers will be getting frequent letters.  It’s part of their job to relay the letters to them.  The only way your letters could be getting him in trouble is if you are breaking the rules.  You can read the guidelines about envelope restrictions here and material restrictions here.  It’s pretty hard to break the rules though…you have to be intentionally sending naughty things or  going out of your way to make your letters stand out in an alarming way.

 

Problem: I Just Can’t Figure Out WHY My Letters Aren’t Getting to Him

If you’re still in doubt about what could possibly be going wrong, do a quick troubleshooting exercise:

  1. Check the current date– Is he in Red Phase?
  2. Check the known training schedule (if he has been updating you on upcoming events)– Is he in the field?
  3. Check the address– Is it the right one, including his roster number or platoon or class information?
  4. Check the rules– Am I violating any obvious rules, like sending padded envelopes?

Out of all the possibilities of what’s happening (or NOT happening in the mail room) the very most common problem with sending letters to your soldier is a simple issue of overflow.  With one mail room and hundreds of soldiers, it’s inevitable that keeping up with the mail is going to be tough.  Unfortunately.  The good news is, your letter will eventually get to him!  The bad news is, he might not be getting a “daily” letter–more likely a weekly windfall.

In the meantime, just keep writing him.  One day, he will get your letters!  And I guarantee, the mountain of mail will be a day he won’t forget. 🙂  If you are having a concern that wasn’t addressed above, feel free to leave a comment below.  I  will answer your comment as best I can!!  And if you have a suggestion for another Army-family concern that needs troubleshooting, I would love to know.

Thanks so much for reading.  I hope your period of waiting goes by as quickly and painlessly as possible!  Basic Training is long and waiting is such a challenge.  But one day it is over and your soldier is yours to keep. 🙂  Homecomings really are perfect.  I wish you and your soldier all the best!  Come back soon.

 

**Read Next: 5 (Emotional) Letter Writing Myths**

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The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

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!

Read Next: Army Basic Training: Letter Writing Myths

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Army Basic Training: 5 (Emotional) Letter Writing Myths

Army Basic Training: 5 Emotional Letter Writing Myths

I wrote a post a few months back about 5 practical myths you’ll run into when sitting down to write a letter to your soldier in Basic Training.  Unfortunately, there are more myths than just those 5. I even wrote about those.  The truth is, many myths aren’t all as cut-and-dry as we would hope.  There are a lot of emotional myths (welcome to life in the Army) and I’m here today to bust those.

Maybe I’m the only one, but separation and lack of communication are usually a recipe for self-doubt and overthinking everything.  It’s easy to try to shoulder the “blame” because as Army wives, we are used to (or getting used to) stepping up to the plate.  It’s a nice quality, but it has to be tempered with reason.  If you haven’t been hearing from your soldier, or you have, but communications just feel “off,” it is likely you might start pointing fingers at yourself.  Your letters are NOT to blame.  Don’t submit to self-doubt, and definitely don’t begin to believe these common emotional lies:

1. My Letters are Getting Old

They aren’t.  I know I haven’t read any of yours, but I can tell you, they aren’t getting old.  Receiving a letter at Basic Training is like Christmas morning for the boys.  You might be that girl that sends a letter once every few weeks, and to your soldier, those are gold.  But if you are that girl who writes him every day (hi, everyone!) you might be wondering if you’re letters are getting old.  They aren’t.  In fact, there is an unspoken competition among the soldiers (generally) about who gets letters and how often.  Not only will you give your soldier a pick-me-up, but you’ll stroke his ego in front of the guys.  If you’re still in doubt, ask yourself this.  Have his letters or phone calls gotten old?  Are you sick of hearing from him?  No.  It works both ways.

2. My Letters are Too Long

Imagine being in a big hospital room with a bunch of other patients and their beds…the lights stay on and there is a continual chatter of noise.  You’ve been given an hour to chill but you have nothing to do.  You have no personal belongings to entertain yourself with–except a letter that just arrived.  The longer, the better.  This is how the soldiers (can) feel.  They aren’t in hospital beds, but they are in big shared spaces with “free time” and nothing to do.  Don’t shy away from writing long letters!  It’s perfectly fine if you’re not a wordy person, just write in the length of style you’re comfortable with.  But if you can write up several pages, go for it!  Don’t hold back just because you are assuming your lengthy letters are annoying.  They aren’t.

3.  My Letters Aren’t Positive Enough, or They are Too Positive

It’s a fine line.  You don’t want to gush about how great life is for you, because you know more than likely he isn’t having the time of his life.  But you don’t want to write drippy and depressing letters because you want to boost his morale, not bring him down.  It’s a personal preference thing, but I found that honesty is the very best course.  If I was feeling down, I wrote about it.  But I tried to balance it out with a positive story or occurrence from my day, to keep the letter from being a “downer.”  Basic Training was just too long of a time span for me to “bite-the-bullet” and just push through emotional conflict.  As newlyweds, I found it was vital to be 100% honest with my husband (and I still do!) because those first few months of marriage are a tender time to build communication skills.  You can’t let Basic Training get in your way.  Be honest and don’t overthink the positivity-level of your letters.

4. My Letters Just Depress Him

So, again, I haven’t read your letters.  But do you have concrete proof that your letters are depressing him, or are you just assuming that?  Try to remember that missing someone isn’t the same as never wanting to hear from them again.  If your soldier has specifically told you that getting letters from home makes him extra homesick, then try to work on your style a bit.  (see above)  If you’ve been sending tons of “downer” letters, try to dial it back.  Or if you’ve been sending extremely peppy letters about how amazing life is back on the ranch, maybe it’s making it harder for him to be away from all that.  Whatever you do, don’t assume your letters are depressing him, unless he specifically tells you so.

5.  My Letters Should Mirror His

Am I the only person who thinks this way?  Sometimes there can be a communications-pressure to try to “stick” to whatever your soldier is doing.  If he is opening up emotionally, you should swoop in with your own emotional update. If he seems down, your letters should be equally as “ho-hum” because you wouldn’t want him to feel like you guys are emotionally imbalanced.  But I’m going to appeal to sticking with the truth again.  Don’t feel bad if he is writing super detailed letters, or sleepy vague ones, or even self-examining monologues.  Unless you talk in person identically, there is no need to write identical letters.  It’s perfectly fine for him to be writing letters that dive heavily into what his daily training is like, while you stick to some fairly round-about updates on school and your job.  Overthinking or manipulating your letters into some kind of mirror effect will only stress you out and keep you from freely speaking the truth.

Hopefully, none of these emotional myths EVER crossed your mind.  Don’t let me put ideas in your head!  But in case you are human and some of these slipped into your mind during those long Basic Training nights of separation, don’t feel like you’re the only one.  Just know that there are hundreds of Army wives/fiancees/girlfriends going through all the same Basic Training nights with you.  And there are many resources you can turn to, either for support or fellowship with people who are or have been in your shoes.

Now go write your soldier a letter!

**Are you doing it right?  Read next: How to Address a Basic Training Letter**

 

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