…I’m so frustrated. Yesterday I had a meltdown. I just miss you so much. Most days I’m okay and I can focus on us being together soon. I don’t want you to feel bad- I’m okay. Some days are just harder than others. Yesterday was one of those harder days…
This was part of my most negative letter. This came after a weekend I spent crying on the couch and being in and out of the hospital for false labor. I felt huge and hot and alone. I hadn’t received a letter yet or gotten a phone call. I felt broken. Of course, I wasn’t really alone. My family was nearby and the whole situation probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time but I was nine months pregnant and my husband had been gone for 2 weeks and my stubborn baby didn’t want to budge.
I knew the importance of keeping my letters positive before my husband left. So I made it a point to be extremely positive and supportive in every letter I wrote. He had enough to worry about, he didn’t need to receive a letter full of whining and self-pity.
Boot camp is tough, people break down
One of the most surprising things I learned about boot camp is that sometimes people attempt to hurt themselves or take their own lives. They just can’t handle the stress, even for 8 weeks. My husband told me that while he was there, this happened twice (thankfully no one succeeded, and those that did this got the help they needed and were sent home).
Boot camp is not meant to be easy. If you can’t survive 8 weeks, you won’t be able to survive a combat zone. It’s as simple as that. The drill instructors will break you down, that’s their job. If you prove that you can handle it, they will build you back up and give you the confidence you need to serve your country. The hard part doesn’t last forever, but some people just can’t cope.
A letter is the reason a person I know didn’t make it through BMT. A member of his family selfishly sent a false letter, stating the condition of the family was much worse than it actually was. He had a breakdown and was sent home.
Obviously, normal people don’t generally do something so terrible. Just be careful how you phrase negative feelings and remember that they are going through a stressful experience and they need support and positivity.
Sometimes they need to be encouraged to talk
How are you holding up? How is training? I’m excited to hear about it. What is your favorite part? What do you dislike about it? Did you enjoy church Sunday? I hope it gave you a much needed break.
This was part of the same letter. You don’t have to hide your feelings, spouses need support too, but I tried not to focus too much on me. I wanted him to be able to talk about things. My husband isn’t really a “talk about your feelings” type of person, but my hope was to at least get him thinking about his situation and breaking it down between what he likes, doesn’t like, and thinking about things that he can look forward to in the moment.
They have limited access to current events
My husband told me that there was a small bulletin board in one of the common areas. They would print off small paragraphs of current events for everyone to read. That was literally the only access to current events that anyone had during basic. He sometimes joked that if the country was hit with a nuclear bomb, he wouldn’t have known about it for a week.
If found that I was running out of things to say, I would just talk about what was going on in the news. I did this for a few reasons:
- I wrote a letter every day and after awhile I didn’t know what else to say
- I felt like it gave him some sense of “normalcy”
- It gave him something different to think about
My husband left for BMT just after those inmates escaped from Dannemora, so I talked about that a few times. I would also go on my facebook newsfeed and get ideas from that.
Write something every day- It will give them something to look forward to
I know that this isn’t easy for everyone. Maybe you’re busy and the kids are being whiny, or life in general gets in the way. The only time I didn’t write a daily letter was the two days I was in labor. I made up for it with a 4-page birth letter the day after though.
Writing a letter every day was an important goal for me because I wanted him to have mail every single day. So I just worked it into my routine. Obviously, it was easier before the baby came along. I was already out of work and had nothing else to do, but after I brought our son home I just made it part of our morning.
We would get up and cuddle in bed (which we still do one year later). Then I would make a cup of coffee and put the baby in his infant seat and write my letter. I’d do a little photo session with the baby (I sent three pictures each day) and printed them off. It would only take about 20 minutes and then I didn’t have to worry about it the rest of the day.
My husband wasn’t the only one that looked forward to my letters, his entire flight looked forward to seeing pictures. I had a few guys at graduation tell me how much they enjoyed the pictures and how they would all pass them around.
Don’t focus on things they’ve missed
I struggled to find words to describe how awesome our baby was without bragging. I didn’t want my husband to feel like he’s missing out. I would say things like “He’s such an easy baby”, “He wakes up a lot to eat but he goes right back to sleep”, or “He hasn’t smiled yet, I think he’s waiting to meet you!”
I avoided talking about “firsts” (although he didn’t really have too many of them while my husband was away) and other things that would make my husband feel bad. I also avoided talking about things that were hard. I didn’t want him to worry that I was struggling. Sure, I was tired, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle and he really was an easy baby.
Another thing I liked to write about was how much our son looked like him, and things the baby did that reminded me of him. I tried to keep it light and funny.
Support, support, support
My most negative letter ended with:
Keep your head up and stay strong. You got this! I love you more than anything forever and always. 4 days til due date, 64 days til I visit, 98 days til you come home
I didn’t care what I was going through, I knew it wasn’t as bad as being 1400 miles away from your spouse, child, and entire family in 106-degree weather with 500 strangers being screamed at. I always ended the letter with a word of support, and a countdown (that countdown was before his parents and I decided to go to graduation. The original plan was to skip graduation and visit during tech school since we couldn’t afford more than one plan trip)
It is “only” 8 weeks (sometimes 12 depending on branch) but unless you go through it, you really don’t know how hard it is. I can’t even imagine! The quotes above are all from the same letter. I never wrote a letter (even my most negative one) without also including some positivity. I was so far away from my husband and it was literally the only thing I could do to be there for him, so writing a positive letter was easy. Even on the not-so-easy days.
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