Darla Black bawled her eyes out when her youngest daughter left for the Air National Guard on August 22.
By August 23, she thought she’d run out of tears.
The waterworks started again when she received her 18-year-old daughter’s first Sandboxx Letter.
After three weeks of disconnect, that piece of mail felt like an immediate connection to her daughter, Jadyn Nicole Black.
“I could hardly read it because I was crying so hard,” says Darla. “I knew she was going to be safe, but when you’re literally broken off like that, it’s the most heart-wrenching thing in the world.”
Sandboxx offered updates throughout Jadyn’s training to her family, making the severed physical connection a little less intense. The first time Jadyn called home, she was sobbing so hard she couldn’t even read off her new address. Her mother got the address from the Sandboxx app instead.
Every morning before work, Darla typed out a letter to Jadyn on the Sandboxx app. Then, at night, she’d write a handwritten letter and send it through snail mail.
“I was so terrified of that first mail call and her having nothing,” she says.
Recently, Jadyn showed her mom the stack of mail she received while in Air Force basic training. The stack amounted to 30-40 letters just from Darla.
“My mom sent one every day, so I always had a letter,” says Jadyn, who is part of the logistics readiness squadron. “That’s what I liked about Sandboxx — it came in the next day.”
Jadyn is currently stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The Sandboxx Letters were always Jadyn’s favorite because she knew a picture would be included. She requested photos of her dog, Banjo, while away. When she received the photo, she told her mom she and another recruit stayed up until midnight crying over missing their dogs.
“It was great getting the pictures; I carried them with me,” says Jadyn. “I would go to church on Sundays, and I would put them in my bible and look at them when I got to church.”
As most moms do, Darla worried about her daughter going out into the real world. The Blacks live in Missouri, in a town of 10,000 people, and Jadyn’s graduating high school class had less than 100 students.
Their tight-knit family stuck close by for most of Jadyn’s life, making her going away even harder.
Writing letters helped the whole family feel connected, especially with the weekly Sandboxx updates of what training phase Jadyn was in. Darla even got a notification about Jadyn’s Air Force basic training graduation date.
“We wanted any type of connection,” says Darla. “And we got that with Sandboxx.”
In her heart, Darla knew Jadyn would be fine going into the military. Since Jadyn was a toddler, she wanted to be part of the Air Force. All it took was her seeing an air show, at 3 or 4 years old, and Jadyn was hooked.
“I feel proud,” Jadyn says of her military service. “It kind of gives you an invincible feeling like you can do anything.”
Because of her ambition, Darla supports Jadyn. She couldn’t imagine not being supportive of her daughter’s biggest life decision so far. Now that they’re past the basic training stage, chatting with her daughter is easier.
Technology, without a doubt, has made it easier to connect to her daughter miles away at Lackland Air Force Base, a modern-day convenience she’s thankful for.
And when Jadyn comes home for Christmas, there will be lots more connecting and catching up. Until they reunite again, Darla admits that time moves much slower than she would like.
“I’m extremely proud,” says Darla.“It’s amazing how patriotic you become when your child enters any of the armed forces.”
She’s still a mom, though.
“You swallow real hard when they sign that last dotted line,” says Darla of watching her daughter commit to the Air National Guard.
Her advice to other military parents?
“Be patient. It’s hard; it’s very hard,” she says.
Since Jadyn’s October graduation, communication is much more regular — Jadyn is allowed to use her phone when she isn’t in class. She talks daily with her mom, and there isn’t much letter writing these days.
But the letters are mementos of a special time.
“I kept all the letters,” says Darla.
As with any major life event, there are also lessons to learn. Discovering patience has been one of the toughest exercises for Darla as a new military mom.
“Patience is not one of my virtues,” she says. “It [basic training] was tough. I can now say that because I can talk to her every day. But patience is a huge virtue. Because when they sign up for this — and if they do end up in the war — you have to come to realize you have to be patient and wait for letters and phone calls.”
Even with that possibility, Darla wouldn’t trade the experience for her daughter.
“She needed this,” says Darla. “I’m glad she signed up for the Air Force”