Sending a loved one off to basic training can be difficult. Communication during boot camp is limited, and your recruit may be nervous about what to expect. Family and friends often feel worried, far away or helpless during basic training. But it’s important to remember that your recruit’s decision to serve is one you should be proud of, and there are many ways that you can support your recruit in basic training:
1. Take Photos and Videos
Keep an album or video file of special moments that happen while your recruit is away so that he or she can see them after boot camp. You might want to send some of these photos to your recruit, but make sure they are a reminder of love and support, not a catalog of things he or she is missing out on. Or, send old photos of happy times together, with messages of positive encouragement attached.
2. Write Letters
Letters are the best way to keep in touch during boot camp, and the best way to keep homesickness at bay. You might be tempted to send care packages, but don’t send anything but letters unless your recruit specifically asks for it. Avoid decorating the outside of the envelope – the Drill Instructor may call attention to this during mail call.
3. Keep It Positive.
Stay upbeat. Make sure you focus your communication on the positive aspects of boot camp – the skills and resilience your recruit will be gaining, and how proud you are of his or her service – not how difficult it is to be apart. Similarly, staying positive at home and keeping up with your routine is equally important; you don’t want your recruit to worry about you. Start each day with a gratitude list or a prayer to help keep your positivity up.
4. Be Understanding.
You likely won’t get a letter in return for every one you write to your recruit. Boot camp allows for very little downtime, and it’s physically and mentally exhausting; days begin early, usually before sunrise. Your recruit might be too tired or too overwhelmed to respond to your letters, but that doesn’t mean your letters aren’t cherished. Let him or her know beforehand that it’s okay not to respond often.
Reading about boot camp can help you understand your recruit’s experience, and can help you feel more connected despite the distance. There are a number of articles, books and memoirs about basic training. Or, seek out more general military reading. Your recruit will feel supported when he or she comes home and realizes how much time you’ve invested into learning about his or her service.
Giving something to others can often help you feel like you are giving something to your recruit. Volunteer with your local USO to support military members in your community. Become a mentor for veterans with Warrior Rising. Send care packages to troops through Operation Gratitude, used books through Operation Paperback, or calling cards through Cell Phones for Soldiers. Sponsor an Honor Flight to help veterans visit their memorials. Visit a VA hospital through Soldiers’ Angels.
7. Join a Facebook group.
There are a number of Facebook groups for parents, spouses and fiancees of recruits and servicemembers. Joining one of these groups can give you a community of people who understand what you’re experiencing, and who can give you tips on ways to stay busy, how to show your support in a letter, or how to plan for graduation.
Join our Sandboxx Facebook groups to start connecting with other supporters.
8. Raise a Service Dog.
Animals can be a great distraction, and taking a service puppy into your home is also a great way to support veterans and those with disabilities. Through SDWR, you can raise a PTSD service dog for a veteran, a seizure response dog, an autism service dog, or a diabetic response dog. As a volunteer, you’ll help turn puppies into lifesaving dogs by providing them with important training and obedience skills. Remember that it this is a long-term commitment, however. The dog will remain in your home between 10 and 14 months.
9. Support Veteran Businesses.
By supporting veteran small businesses, you’ll be investing in the long-term future of your recruit, since these businesses are over 30 percent more likely than other employers to hire other veterans. Over 2 million businesses in the U.S. are majority-owned by veterans, and that number is growing. Find a veteran-owned business near you and buy their products or use their services.
10. Go to Graduation.
Graduation is a big deal for your recruit. Do everything you can to be there, and make sure to recognize the magnitude of the accomplishment. Be understanding if your recruit isn’t ready to share details of the boot camp experience right away. A lot has happened over the past few months, and there may also be uncertainty or anxiety about what the future holds.
Learn more about your recruit’s basic training graduation:
Fort Jackson Graduation
Fort Sill Graduation
Fort Leonard Wood Graduation
Fort Benning Graduation
MCRD Parris Island Graduation
MCRD San Diego Graduation
RTC Great Lakes Graduation
JBSA Lackland Graduation
Cape May Graduation
Most of all, be proud! Know that your support, encouragement and understanding are the best gifts you can give your recruit during this time.