Shhhh! I’m going to let you in on a secret. And the secret is that basic training (boot camp) isn’t just training for the young men and women who volunteer to serve our country – it’s also training for their parents.
As I shared previously, my son Mike volunteered to be a part of the United States Army infantry force. His first step in that commitment was three months of boot camp at Fort Benning, GA. Prior to his departure in early January, I asked him to please write, as I knew there would be no phone calls or emails or any of those types of communications we are all so familiar with. Mike honestly told me he didn’t think he would, since he just doesn’t like to write. But I asked him to try, and off he went.
And then began the dry desert of no communication. All parents want their children to be safe and happy, but I had no way to know what was going on with Mike. For the first few weeks, I brought my phone everywhere, just on the chance I’d get a quick call. I worried daily, hourly, even minute by minute. What was he doing? Did he get any sleep? Was he getting screamed at? Was he standing at attention outside in the cold night? I had no idea what was happening.
And then I went to the mailbox one afternoon and found a small envelope with my name and address handwritten on the front, with the return address just as painstakingly written. I can’t really share how wonderful I felt just to know he was fine and had taken the time to write to me. I opened up the letter while standing at the mailbox and read all about his experience. I ran inside and wrote a response, and over the next two months, I received several updates, all of which were eagerly awaited and devoured.
After two months of boot camp, the soldiers who had passed all the tests they needed to pass were allowed a family weekend, so I headed down to Georgia to see Mike for a few days. Then he had another month of no communication before graduation and this time there were no letters. But I knew Mike was okay, and I understood he was spending quite a bit of time in the woods and wouldn’t be able to write anyway. And then I realized that boot camp was for me too. I had been trained as well. It wasn’t that I wasn’t still worried; of course I was, and I will probably worry about him for the rest of his life, because that’s what parents do. But I had let go a little more because I knew my son was a man making his own path in the world and he was going to be just fine.
Now that he’s finished with boot camp, I say with a huge grin, “Thank you for writing to your mother, Soldier!”