While attending military basic training graduation, it’s expected to hear drill sergeants yelling.
Normally, graduation attendees aren’t the ones being yelled at.
But write one too many letters to your boyfriend, and you may just get a drill sergeant greeting like Elena did.
During a Fort Sill graduation, Elena’s boyfriend’s drill sergeant approached the two of them to share her utter disbelief in how many letters Elena wrote to him during his training.
The recorded encounter went viral on Elena’s Twitter. (Warning: There is some harsh drill sergeant language!)
Even after getting yelled at by a drill sergeant, Elena doesn’t regret sending all the letters she did. Despite what many viewers have said, she knows the encounter was a playful outburst by the drill sergeant.
“I knew she was acting tough, and I think drill sergeants do in general,” she says. “I think it’s an act they have to put on. They’re people too.”
Letters, Letters, and More Letters
Elena sent a mix of Sandboxx letters and handwritten letters to Christian with updates about her day, pop culture tidbits, and future plans.
Between the two of them, they exchanged 150 letters.
Prior to Elena’s drill sergeant scolding, Christian warned her in advance via a letter that she might feel the wrath of one of his drill sergeants. He mentioned a funny drill instructor in his platoon who made it clear she was going to yell at Elena at graduation about all her letter writing.
Christian felt the wrath long before Elena did, though.
“He would get them [the letters] in bulk,” says Elena. “The most he got in bulk was 20. He said when he got those 20, everyone had to five push-ups for a letter and he had to do 10.”
Everyone started noticing when Christian got Elena’s letters, too, since they were off-white and a square-shape.
When she had a more pressing topic to share, Elena used Sandboxx.
“I used Sandboxx when I needed to know for sure when something got sent,” she says. “It made me feel better knowing it would get to him.”
Overall, she sent him six Sandboxx letters and 77 handwritten letters. He sent her back 67 letters. Elena scanned and placed each letter into two scrapbooks — one for each of them.
“He wrote me every single day,” she says.
Basic Combat Training and Beyond
While they’d known each other since high school, the couple started dating a few short months prior to Christian leaving for Army Reserve basic combat training back in November. Once he gets clearance to move on from Fort Sill, he’ll train as a 35N Signals Intelligence Analyst.
“He loves to go through phases. He loves to do new things all the time. He’s been wanting to do the Army since he was really young,” explains Elena. “He decided in the last moment, three weeks before he shipped out. I didn’t have time to process it.”
While they both did as much research as they could, now they’re finding there’s only so many things Google can teach about the real-world Army Reserve life.
“We were both as informed as we could be,” she says. “The Army does not really explain things very well. It’s kind of you go through and learn.”
To Elena and Christian, honest communication is what’s kept them connected tightly. He’s on security hold in Oklahoma, which is similar to boot camp since they still can’t regularly talk and text.
While he’s away, Elena’s focusing on life as a college student studying computer science with a pre-med track.
They still send letters to each other weekly even with the busiest of schedules. Even now, they love writing each other letters.
“It’s so hard to not be able to talk to him,” she says.“I don’t think we will ever stop writing letters to each other.”
More Than an Army Girlfriend
Even though she misses Christian dearly, that hasn’t stopped Elena from living her life. After seeing her viral video, military girlfriends message her quite a bit on social media asking for advice.
To her, it’s simple: Express concerns and emotions openly. Don’t let issues fester.
Her biggest piece of advice? Keep living life.
“They’re doing something for themselves and their life. Make sure you’re not just sitting around and waiting for them to return,” she says.
She advises that being a service member’s motivator is helpful, but that self-care matters, too.
“Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and bettering yourself. Through this experience you can work on yourself. I think that’s really important,” she says. “I’m an Army girlfriend, yes, but I’m also Elena Berisha.”
Fixating on the relationship alone isn’t the only way to show support, she says. Her boyfriend loves hearing about how she thrives personally in other areas of her life.
Elena encourages other military girlfriends to find that, too.
“I think it’s important to remember that you are your own person as well,” she says. “It makes time go by way slower if you fixate on the fact that you are an Army girlfriend. You need to focus on yourself, your career, your own friends and family while your partner is away doing the same thing for themselves.”
What do you love most about Elena’s story? Share in the comments below!