My Son goes to War
February 21, 2007 12:54 AM   Subscribe

My first born son has entered the National Guard of America; He is in basic training and has 12 weeks to go. I am writing letters 2x’s a week. What more can I do to support him? More inside

If you are anti- war, please hold your comments, I don't like war, but my child is in there, fighting for your rights (Americia).I would like some positive things to do.

But for the Grace of God, there go I ...
posted by JujuB to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Note: Lots of us anti-war folk support the heck out of our troops. So if you don't mind, I'll answer your question :)

Organise something enjoyable for him when he gets home and tell him about it. Not a surprise party (you can do that too) but, say, a new iPod or flat-screen TV or other coveted gift to congratulate him on his graduation from basic training.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:05 AM on February 21, 2007

What more can you do? He is a grownup now, doing a job. Not a pleasant job, but a job. I don't get letters from my folks who live 1000 miles away for doing my job, so you are ahead of the game. So, continue to communicate and react accordingly.

(incidentally the "...I don't like war, but my child is in there, fighting for your rights (Americia)" came across as, unintentionally I'm sure, preemptively inflammatory)
posted by edgeways at 6:04 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Edgeways, I think the difference is that this job entails a very high degree of isolation from daily life in the US.

Writing to your son is a great start - when I was away on camps (I was in the reserves in the UK), my mother would send me home-cooked things (fruit cakes and so on) that always seemed to get to me when I was stuck in a trench in the rain and miserable. They were great morale-boosters. Care packages generally are a good thing. Books to break the boredom if he's stuck in the same spot for a few days. Magazines. Photographs. Perhaps a Flickr account so he can post photos and keep you up to date with what he's up to? Oh, and a camera of course.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:08 AM on February 21, 2007

I thought there was a similar question asked in the past, but I'm having trouble finding it...anyone?
posted by inigo2 at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2007

Assuming he gets deployed: There are some good care package suggestions in this AskMe.

Keep writing letters. Don't worry about coming up with brilliant content, just tell him about mundane, day-to-day ordinary stuff -- it'll provide a welcome reality check from the rest of his day.

Handee, he's in basic the US. JujuB, seconding that anti-war folks, myself included, are not generally anti-troops.
posted by desuetude at 6:15 AM on February 21, 2007

Having a family member in the military is an emotional thing, especially now. It's like you've become a member of a club you're not sure you wanted to join. (I'm an airforce brat, dad just retired after 35 years of service, both active duty and guard.)

I'm pretty sure that you're limited in what you can do for him while he's at boot camp - there are restrictions in place and a lot of what you'd like to send via care package is contraband. Writing and communication is great though - let him know after a grueling day that you're thinking of him and love him, and support him. It might not be a decision you'd have made for him, but support him.

Also, look into supporting yourself. You might not have as many resources as a parent (as opposed to a spouse) on the base specifically, but look online. If there's a base near you, see if there's a parent's support group. Find a military mom's group on the web - learn from them, commiserate with them, get ideas from them. We went through several wars with dad, and the support from the military community got us through in many ways.

And believe me, none of us who have (had) family members in the military like war. I'm about as liberal/anti-war/bleeding heart as they come, and I think it's a direct response to having been raised in a family where any phone call from the command post could have meant dad was going to war. If you need someone to talk to, let me know. I know it's hard, and one of the best days of my life was the day dad retired. But you're part of the club now, like it or not.
posted by librarianamy at 6:16 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was in bootcamp, and later when I was in OCS, letters from home were GOLD. Keep writing them.

I was also very surprised and touched that my mother kept a 'Blue Star Flag' in the window at home... don't know why but it really meant something to me.
posted by matty at 6:17 AM on February 21, 2007

At Katz's deli in NYC there's a large neon sign that reads "SEND A SALAMI, TO YOUR BOY IN THE ARMY". I've always wanted to have an opportunity to do exactly that, (as and when I do have military children).
posted by roofus at 6:23 AM on February 21, 2007

You probably do this already since you're his mother and everything, but make sure he knows that you love him. Tell him regularly.

If he's close to his father, make sure his father explicitly tells his son that he loves him.

You or both of you should also tell him that you're proud of him.

I'm sorry if these things sound very obvious or if you do them already, but some parents assume that their children already know this and never bother telling them. Remove all doubt and say these things to him.
posted by redteam at 6:35 AM on February 21, 2007

Never underestimate the power of "local favorites". I see from your profile that you're from my neck of the swamps. Tony Chachere's and Tabasco make teeny tiny samples that will fit in any pocket, and you can usually get a ton of them by writing a letter. King Cakes, Hubig's pies, doberge, boudin...heck, even beads and dubloons will make him feel closer to home.

A good photo project (and I've done this for friends in the military or friends that are sick) is to take a dry erase board around to his friends and family and photograph them with their short message (much like our infamous MeFi shoutouts). A picture of grandma is fine, but a picture of grandma with a sign that says, "Come home, Coonass!" is gold.
posted by ColdChef at 6:38 AM on February 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is an exciting time for your son - possibly his first time away from home, doing something very challenging for himself and/or being an "adult" for the first time. He may not miss you the way you miss him.

In short, he may not need any more support than you are now providing. From my own experience, getting busy with something else gave me a healthy outlet for my "empty nest" issues.
posted by luckyshirl at 6:39 AM on February 21, 2007

While in boot camp, but especially if he gets deployed, send him stuff. Just stuff. If you see something that reminds you of him, send it on. Pictures? Send those too. I got into the habit if sending my little brother tons of funny greeting cards while he was in Afghanistan. Send magazines he enjoys. Send him an iPod with music loaded on it - you can have playlists of songs to him from you, in addition to other music you know he likes. And I can't stress enough about sheets, under clothing, and socks. Find out what he needs and send it over.

While doing this, take complete advantage of the USPS Military Care Package service.
posted by sephira at 6:54 AM on February 21, 2007

Sign him up for the Soldiers Angels program.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mod note: derails go to metatalk, not here
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:01 AM on February 21, 2007

When my nephew was in Iraq, we'd gather up a bunch of football and baseball previews and sudoku books and send them over. Reading material of any kind was gold.
posted by dw at 7:17 AM on February 21, 2007

Home baked goods. Not cookies (they disintegrate during shipping) but brownies are always a good bet. Get the bakeable/oven-safe containers with lids (either the tin-foil kind, or, better if you can find them, the plastic kind) make your brownies in it, add a layer of plastic wrap, enough bubble wrap to fill the container to the top, a handful of plastic forks, then the lid, tape all around, put it in a standard shipping box, and more tape. Just make sure you make enough for all of his buddies--they'll want some, too!
posted by anaelith at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2007

There is no National Guard of America. National Guard formations are organized on the state level.

Which state Guard did your son enlist in?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:32 AM on February 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

How to:

Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army
posted by jason's_planet at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2007

When I moved off to college, my dad sent me a die-cast toy model of my very first car. There was no note or anything else in the box, just a little black VW bug. It made me ball like hell, but there was a lot of love in that little gesture. My dad and I spent months looking at cars and haggling with sellers. My dad was a lifelong salesman so he taught me some of the tricks. I learned a lot from him and it was a special time. If you can think of something like that for your boy, it would probably mean a lot to him.
posted by mds35 at 7:51 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Everyone keeps suggesting sweets, but her son is in basic traing. Care packages --especially food-- probably won't be permitted.

While he's in basic, keep writing the letters, and let him know all the things that are going on at home. It helps enormously. Maybe include a prepaid phone card in a letter, so that he can call home when he's able.

Once he's out of basic, and assuming he gets deployed to the middle east, TPS's Soldier's Angels suggestion is great. Also, there are lots of services that send care packages. A quick google search will turn up many more. Try them, or just check out the contents, and send them yourself. Also, by that point, your son will have a better idea of what his needs are and can ask for things by name.
posted by Gamblor at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2007

To second what librarianamy said, most of these suggestions are good for when he's deployed, but you're going to be limited to pretty much just letters and photos while he's in boot camp. The more letters the better. Postcards if you can't think of anything to write. Letters from extended family are nice, too. You want as close to a constant stream of letters as you can get. Not hearing your name at mail call can be a lonely thing. When I was in basic I got letters from friends and relatives I hadn't seen in years (and fifteen years later I still have all the letters.)

We only got to write a letter home once a week, though, so don't think that your efforts aren't appreciated just because he can't write back as often.

I have no idea how the coming of email might have changed things, but even if he is allowed electronic correspondence, actual snail mail letters are still a must.
posted by Cyrano at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2007

We only got to write a letter home once a week, though, so don't think that your efforts aren't appreciated just because he can't write back as often.

I'm seconding Cyrano's whole comment, but this part in particular. I wouldn't take a lack of response as a lack of appreciation on your son's part.
posted by Gamblor at 8:09 AM on February 21, 2007

I support him. I support him so much I don't want to see him die.

In any case, lots of letters and e-mail. Best thing ever for the home sick.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:05 AM on February 21, 2007

I've been in Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia during my time in the Army (I'm no longer in the military), so I've got a couple suggestions.

In basic, he's probably not going to be allowed care packages, but letters are gold, just getting a letter during mailcall is something special, my mom wrote me all the time, and everytime, I loved getting the letter(s). It actually means something to hear your name getting called during mailcall. So write as often as possible, even if it's just a postcard. When I was in basic, books were forbidden, but my mom (she's worth her wait in gold), every couple of days in her letters would include 20-30 pages of a book, she just ripped out the pages and mailed them, that way I could read a little during basic. It became like a serial movie, I would anxiously await the next letter, so I could read more.

If he's actually deployed, send care packages now and again, in addition to the letters. I remember when I was in the middle-east, I treasured every letter I received. My mom's cookies were also a big hit with all my buddies. One thing I remember is how hot and stultifyingly boring being there was. Maybe when he gets there, a NintendoDS + games if he likes games, someway to relieve the tension and just escape.

Good luck.
posted by patrickje at 9:39 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm incredibly anti-war, but I'm also pro-human.

Funnily enough, I just saw this site the other seems fitting. Hopefully it will prove useful:

Kit Up is the stuff you weren't issued but that you couldn't have done without during your military life. Kit Up can be a device, software, book, DVD, or a resource like a website, chat room, or blog. We want to know about the items that made things bearable during a deployment or that allowed you to accomplish your mission. Maybe your gear even saved your life. Kit Up can be new or old, expensive or cheap. It just needs to have mattered to you. And if you used an item that you think works better than what's posted here, we want to hear about that too. Warfighters: Tell us about your gear.

Things along that line, I would think, would be great...listen to him when he gripes about things he misses and then try to find ways to fill that void.

On another note, my best to your son, you and your family. I hope he is and stays safe.
posted by nevercalm at 9:45 AM on February 21, 2007

I would look at the blogs recommended in this AskMe thread. It will give you a better idea of what he's going to go through, and might give you some ideas on how to prepare him and receive him upon his return.

Send him the "good luck" wishes of a random internet person.
posted by crayolarabbit at 10:28 AM on February 21, 2007

JuJuB, it may be expensive to ship (as it's an aerosol)

As a side note, you cannot ship aerosal containers.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:38 AM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was never in the military, but I did go to boarding school, which has some parallels. I'll just add weight to what everyone before has said - letters from home are the best thing you can do now. Later, when he's allowed care packages, anything you can ship will make his day, week, and month a little brighter, especially if they show special insight into what makes him tick. Food is always appreciated, but a little nod to any hobbies, collections or obsessions he may have will be especially appreciated. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask one of his friends for help finding something special.
posted by lekvar at 12:44 PM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: I am very sorry for the unintentional blunder I made in wording this question. I did not mean to offend anyone. My intentions were to keep the post from becoming a political flame out. Needless to say, I learned my lesson. I had just written him a long letter, while wishing I could do more.

My son is in the Louisiana National Guard; his unit is based out of New Orleans. He is in Infantry.

Thank you for overlooking my poorly worded question and taking the time to answer.
posted by JujuB at 5:51 PM on February 21, 2007

I don't know if he has access to an mp3, CD, tape, or video player, but you could record a movie or a sound clip and send it to him. Get his friends and other family members to all say something. Pictures are excellent too.
posted by Anonymous at 8:12 PM on February 21, 2007

Oops, and if you look on Any Soldier there are great tips of what to send to troops overseas.
posted by Anonymous at 8:13 PM on February 21, 2007

As patrickje said, he is in basic training, so just about any 'stuff' you send (care packages) will be impounded until the end of training. He may get more privileges in this regard during his infantry-specific training, but bear in mind that it's also stuff he's going to have to pack into a couple of duffel bags already stuffed with uniforms to bring right back home when he returns. Besides that, there just isn't space for him to store personal items aside from some letters - he's living out of a wall locker that is already full, laid out in detail, and regularly inspected. Stick with the letters, as even books are contraband (the idea being that recruits only need be reading and studying their Smart Book of the common soldier skills they're learning) during the hour or so of daily free time before lights-out. One saving grace when I went through basic was that on Sundays we were allowed to buy the local newspaper. Bear in mind that Sunday mornings are really the only block of free time he probably has, set aside for attending religious services or just relaxing without worrying about drill sergeants.
posted by SenshiNeko at 4:38 PM on February 26, 2007

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