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Basic Training Letter, 2001

January 4, 2013 3 Comments

This is a letter from a retiring soldier to his son who has just joined the Army and is currently going through basic training, dated June 5, 2001.

Some excerpts:

The other thing is you can’t seem to figure out why the rest of the world hasn’t changed while you have changed so much. Life in the army has a way of making you look at things a little differently. Things seem to change position as far as what’s important and what isn’t. I sometimes think that’s the biggest difference between soldiers and civilians – what they think is important.

You had to give up alot of things that were comfortable to try a way of life you only knew a little bit about. I think in the big scheme of things this is what separates the men from the boys, being able to take risks. In order to do it you have to be able to master your fears, physical and mental, and take charge of what is happening.

If you choose to do just the minimum you will get by, but you won’t be the kind of man that people trust and rely on. Set your own standards high and then try to live up to them. Don’t give them up just because no one else is living up to them. Don’t expect anyone to even notice that you are doing more or better. The satisfaction you get is the payment. And if you think about it that is really payment enough.

Page 1 of Basic Training LetterPage 2 of Basic Training Letter

Full Transcription:

6 JUN 01
Dear Joshua,

I thought I would write you a letter and I thought it would be best if I typed it. We all know how bad my handwriting is. I thought this way you could read it without have to spend too much time trying to figure out what I had written.

Things here are going along. Mom and I have been up north twice in the last month. First we went for an interview in Findlay and then to Grandma and Grandpa’s party. Everything seem to go OK. It looked like everyone was on their best behavior. We had dinner with the Wolfes, the Hulls and Megan. Even Megan was on her best behavior. Things went pretty good. As far as the job in Findlay, I took it and will start working for them in August. My last day working for the army is 11 July.

We’re all looking forward to seeing you on the 21st. I’m not sure if Sarah is going to make it, there seems to be some confusion about how she intends to get there. Mom and I will drive down on the 20th and spend the night. I spoke with your company operations sergeant and he said they usually let you loose after graduation but you have to be back at zero dark thirty the next morning. He also indicated that you would have to go to AIT by air. Mom and I are playing that by ear. If you are allowed to drive and we don’t bring your car, we can just bring you back up here to get it. I figure that will be around Christmas, hell the whole army closes down around Christmas…

The dog is getting bored with no one to wrestle her. She keeps trying to get me to do it. She has been sleeping outside your door at night. I don’t know what she’s going to do when we move. Mom thinks she probably go into some kind of deep depression or something. I figure she’ll work it out in her little doggie brain one way or another.

Since you’ve gotten this far, or at least I assume you have, you must have gotten past the PT stuff. You need to remember to keep at that one, when you get to Airborne school the PT there will make Basic seem like a walk in the park. As far as PT goes, the key there is just don’t ever stop. At some point it becomes just a part of your life. I really had a hard time when I couldn’t run anymore. Maybe it becomes some sort of addiction. I never liked to run but I did five miles a day every day. Push ups and sit ups really become just second nature, knock out about 50-100 a day and the test is a breeze.

How did it go on the rifle range? Did you manage to fire expert. I only got sharpshooter myself in basic. It took me a few more years to actually qualify as an expert. that rifle takes just a little bit of work to be good with. Of course, the M16 I had in basic was actually made by Mattel and was the M16A1. The A1 had less range and accuracy than the A2 you guys should be using now. I know, I know, old soldiers sniveling about how hard it used to be. Anyway I hope you did better than I did.

We have a copy of your Transcript from Transy here. I’ll try to remember to bring it down with me. That way, even if you didn’t get the promotion yet, you can get it backdated when you get to your next duty assignment. SFC Mack said you have 6 months to get it squared away. The raise should be money in the bank as they will pay you from the day you entered the service.

Now that you’re looking back on Basic, it probably appears pretty easy. I think the strangest thing to me afterwards was riding and driving a car again. You go for a couple of months without doing it and you don’t even notice that it’s missing. The other thing is you can’t seem to figure out why the rest of the world hasn’t changed while you have changed so much. Life in the army has a way of making you look at things a little differently. Things seem to change position as far as what’s important and what isn’t. I sometimes think that’s the biggest difference between soldiers and civilians – what they think is important.

I don’t want to get too sappy, but I am very proud of you. Not just because you joined the army, but because you were able to risk it all to try something. You had to give up alot of things that were comfortable to try a way of life you only knew a little bit about. I think in the big scheme of things this is what separates the men from the boys, being able to take risks. In order to do it you have to be able to master your fears, physical and mental, and take charge of what is happening. People don’t generally think so but in the army you are very much in control of yourself. No one can force you to do anything but the minimum required. (I had a private in Germany who told me I could only work him long, I couldn’t work him hard – he was right) If you choose to do just the minimum you will get by, but you won’t be the kind of man that people trust and rely on. Set your own standards high and then try to live up to them. Don’t give them up just because no one else is living up to them. Don’t expect anyone to even notice that you are doing more or better. The satisfaction you get is the payment. And if you think about it that is really payment enough.

A bit of soldier poetry for you, I’ve always tried to keep a copy of this verse in every place I’ve wandered, (I don’t know the author):

Fearlessly he rode on with just his Yemeni blade,
Adornments he cared for none, save the notches on it’s blade.

you can make of it what you want.

Well, were looking forward to seeing you, keep your nose in the wind and your eyes on the skyline,

Love you,
Dad

-PS happy D-day-

Comments (3)

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  1. ,Teresa Helms says:

    I wonder what happened to the young soldier……

  2. Carey says:

    This is a great way to start!

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