Basic military training begins the day the recruit ships and it lasts from anywhere from 7.5 weeks to 12 weeks, depending on the branch (Comparing Basic Training for the 5 Branches of U.S. Military Service – VeteranAid).
Air Force or Space Force – Basic Military Training
Army – Basic Combat Training
Marine Corps – Recruit Training
Navy – Boot Camp
Coast Guard – Recruit Training
Parents, family members, and friends experience their own journey while their loved one is away, but no one prepares for this. There was no preparation for my heart as my son was in training. No one prepared me for the lack of communication. It is gut-wrenching to go from talking with your child daily to nothing. Zero. Zilch. Phone calls are nil. Letters are sparse and if you receive one, it is cryptic at best.
It was tough.
Trainees are mentally downloading tons of information in a brief period. This is the reason they are lacking in communication with you. DO NOT PANIC (because OF COURSE I did, several times).
The first bit of communication I received from him sounded robotic. I read warnings to always keep my phone with me. AT ALL TIMES. It became an extra appendage. I figured out how to allow ‘emergency break-through’ calls even when my phone was on ‘silent’ mode. Desperate? – as desperate as a mama bear over her cubs.
OF COURSE I received the first phone call from him as I was driving. ‘I only have 2 minutes to relay this information to you, please have a pencil and paper ready,’ he said as if reading from a script (I later found out HE WAS INDEED reading from a script). I instantly began sweating in every crevice of my body from the nape of my head to my feet. OF COURSE I did not have paper and pen ready. I WAS DRIVING. ‘My address is….’ WHAT? I put my hazard lights on and pulled onto the shoulder of the road and wrote on my arm. With each breath he took, there was a pause, and I was able to tell him I loved him, over and over. Attempting to have zero emotion in my voice to match his. I do not remember pulling over or writing the information on my arm. I do not remember driving home. I do not remember. But I survived the first phone call.
It was tough.
The second call was a disaster. The Christmas season was in full effect, and I was decorating my best friend’s home. Thank God I was not alone. No one prepares you for that second call. Your soldier has been away from home for a bit and hearing your voice normally breaks something in them. His special ring tone rang from my phone. ‘Ma,’ a pause, ‘there is surely no ‘southern hospitality’ here,’ and he broke. His voice cracked, he cried and laughed through the tears. He was adjusting and said repeatedly that he would be fine, but he was so relieved to hear my voice. My mama heart did not betray me in this moment. ‘You are strong bud, you are amazing, you are prepared for this. Jesus is right there with you. He will walk alongside you and comfort you. You can do this.’ The phone call lasted 2 minutes. OF COURSE I had to share time with my ex-husband, it’s only fair right?
The phone calls that followed were limited, but allowed, because of COVID protocol, yet proved he was adjusting. The soldiers get acclimated to their new surroundings and become friends with their fellow trainees. However, my heart did not get accustomed to the lack of communication and yours will not either. It is ok. Just breathe.
It was tough.
I wrote letters like a madwoman. Every other day I mailed letters via regular mail and twice weekly I used Sandboxx (Home – Sandboxx). Writing letters and including pictures is super important while your soldier is training. They read them over and over and share them with one another. It’s not a bad idea to include a letter to another unnamed trainee (in case there is a soldier that isn’t receiving mail). I felt it was important to write about my daily life, the neighborhood, his friends, our family, and anything going on in our community. Your soldier wants you to ramble. About nothing, everything, and anything. Tell them about the weather. Tell them the mail carrier got new tires on his postal truck. Tell them anything. These letters are their lifeline home. This also allows you to get your emotions out and onto paper. Remain positive in your letters – they need this.
It is tough.
The letters he was able to write to us were also limited. Most soldiers use the extra time in the evenings to catch up on sleep or read and reread letters from home. Very few use the time to write letters because it is time consuming to march to the mailbox, mail, and back to their barracks in a certain amount of time. These became like pirate booty to me. I signed up for notifications from the post office of each piece of mail I would receive daily then stalked the mail carrier. Yes, I once saw in my notifications that a letter was on its way. Our mail carrier passed our house, and no letter. OF COURSE I tracked him down and asked where it was (yes, I found it, 24 hours later).
It is tough.
His training coincided with the holidays which made it extra hard on all of us. This was the first Thanksgiving without him and the first Christmas I did not see my son and he did not see me. Military families give up a lot to serve this amazing country. So, stay positive, remain in prayer, send letters, and stay strong for your soldier. It is tough, but you both will make it through.