We waited and waited by the mailbox for a letter from the guys. Day after day Mother Goose would run out to meet our mail carrier, Miss Nell. “Have you got anything for me from Great Lakes, IL?”
“No, sorry, Miss Goose. Nothing for you today but some bills, I guess. Keep hoping…”
And Mother Goose did a whole bunch of hoping. And praying.
When the recruits first arrive at boot camp, they do a lot of hurrying up and waiting. In fact, we witnessed that at the MEPS when we were there for the swearing in ceremonies as well. That seems to be the only way to move large groups of young men and women in a timely manner! Hurry them up and then have them wait. A long time.
Also, as soon as they unload from the bus at Boot Camp, they step into pre-painted yellow foot tracks painted on the floor and they stay in those yellow tracks until all intake processing is completed. They are kept awake doing various processing activities for at least the first forty hours of basic training. After that they are allowed a three hour nap and then it’s back to processing.
One of the first things they do is change out of their civilian clothes and into their first military uniforms. Their old civvie clothes are dropped into a box and shipped back home. They WON’T need them anymore. The Navy supplies everything they need from skivvies to socks to eye glasses to boots.
And omigooseness those nice boots! No wonder they call it “boot camp” — they are measured very accurately for custom boots — interiors even molded to their exact feet! They are very fine boots for the recruits to wear day and night.
The recruits are also allowed a phone call upon their arrival at Great Lakes Naval Training Facility. They stand in line for a long time (of course), and when it is their turn to call, they dial up mom and dad (hoping that somebody will answer the phone because they only get one chance at this), they read the script which is posted on the wall.
“Hi Mom, this is _________. I just want you to know that I made it to basic training. I hope you are doing OK. I’m fine. I love you. Bye.”
So we wrote them letters and waited for letters. There is no other way to contact recruits at basic training unless you have a true, DIRE emergency in which case you call the Red Cross and they will find your son or daughter. A weeping mother or sobbing father is not necessarily considered a DIRE emergency.
Finally the first letter! Here’s a short excerpt from Adam’s first letter home:
“…so anyway bootcamp is pretty high-stress…our RDC’s get mad at us because we don’t work as a team. The recruit leaders (RCPO) are stupid though because all they do is tell us to shut up. Like that’s some leadership skills…There is so much swearing also but I was surprised by how much. The RDCs swear the most but I think they just act mean because they can be nice too. But that’s their way of training…”
And here’s something from Erik’s letter:
“We learned how to make our beds and we get timed to do it and have to follow a bunch of guidelines. It’s hard but I think I’m getting better…the first day or two I didn’t like the food very much but now I’m starting to love it. I’m kind of losing track of days and was surprised when I found out today was Sunday…”
Another excerpt from Adam about a week later:
“Dear Mom, Hello! I can’t write much tonight because I have watch from 2-4 so I need to get some sleep. But I just wanted to tell you that I’m having a really good time becoming a sailor…”
After a week, Erik wrote to us:
“Dear Family, Greetings from Great Lakes! First of all I want to say that I love you all and miss you guys more everyday…So what have I been doing for the past week and a half or so…labeling shirts, shorts, bags, towels, hats, coats, gloves and way more. Learning how to fold all of it and where to put it. I also went through medical, got a pair of stylish glasses and wow I didn’t realize my eyes were getting so bad!”
“Mom — We got mail for the first time last night. When I heard my name get called it felt like Christmas all over again. I couldn’t help but smile as I went to pick up the mail. By far, getting your letter has been the highlight of my week so far, which has so far consisted mostly of sitting around studying and getting snowed in. There were snow drifts that looked at least 10 feet high and no one was allowed to leave or come to the base.”
As the weeks went by, the guys wrote more and more about their activities and things they were learning to do — marching, marching, marching and swimming and shooting guns and saluting and more marching. And even though they were both on base at the same time and occasionally saw each other marching around, they never got to talk to each other until finally one Sunday in the chapel towards the end of their boot camp experience.
Imagine that reunion!
And then it was time for Graduation from basic training, a story in itself. Please come back next time when Mother Goose continues this special series about our experience as a military family! Remember, November is Military Family Appreciation Month! Hug a Navy mom today! Honk honk!!!