Depressed Letters from Basic Training

Lately, I have received quite a few emails from concerned Army wives, Army parents and Army girlfriends about the first few letters they have received from their Army soldier in basic training. They were concerned because their soldier sounded depressed and was talking about making a mistake by joining. Many times they have written me asking if there is a way out of the contract because their soldier seems so intent on not staying in basic training.

I remember being in their shoes. I remember receiving those same letters in the first few weeks of basic training. My husband wrote to me that he was sorry he was putting us through all of this and that it was a mistake. He sounded very upset with his decision to join the Army. I did the only thing I knew to do – wrote back with words of encouragement and support.

I mentioned these emails to my husband a few weeks ago and commented that it must be pretty common with soldiers in basic. His response? He had never acted that way! I had to laugh. Then I went to find the letters that he had sent to me. He didn’t even remember ever regretting his decision to join the Army. He was surprised at how he sounded in his letters.

When your soldier goes to basic training, part of the “job” of the drill sergeants is to break him down so they can build him back up again in the Army way. For many of our husbands and sons, it is the first time away from family for any significant amount of time. And its definitely the first time away from home while facing such a strict schedule, an entirely new group of people that they’re living with in a confined area and very little communication with those they know and love. It is a tough adjustment. But most make it through and come out a better person for it.

Be sure that you continue to write words of support and encouragement to your soldier. Let them know that you are proud of their decision to serve. Try to give them the motivation that they need to get through those first few weeks as they are generally the toughest. Pretty soon, you’ll notice a difference in their letters and their attitude.

It’s just another hill in the roller coaster ride of the Army!

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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  1. Stacey, Thank you so much for writing and informing about your experience with your husband. I just received a couple letters from my SIT which are completely different than how he has reacted in the past. and I didn’t know if it was other people going through it too, or if it was just something he was going through.

  2. stacey,
    I want to thank you sooooo much for writing this. i am currently going through this now with my boyfriend who is in basic training in ft. jackson, sc. he is only in his 2nd week and this is the first time we have EVER been away from each other in 4 years. he recently wrote me a letter sounding regretful about his decision to enlist, and very depressed and it concerned me, and hurt me so much that he is going through this. i knew this would be the hardest thing we’ve ever experienced, but i did couldn’t imagine the amount of lonliness i would be feeling and with him away, and i didn’t know it would be this hard for him, not just physically, but mentally. i found so much comfort in this article just knowing that my soldier and i are not alone, and that it’s normal for us to have these feelings! thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. My boyfriend is at Fort Jackson also I miss him so much. I write him 3 letters a day whenever I think about him I write. I always thought they would make fun of him but he said they don’t and to keep writing. Also This article is great!

  3. Thank you so very much for this information. My grandson is in basic trainig and his last letter had me very very concerned and reading your letter has made me feel a little better. I pray for him every day and now I think I will pray for his leaders and fellow sit’s too.

  4. Hey Stacey, Thank you so much for that…I been thinking I was alone with my husband leaving for Basic Training…I’m passed nerve wrecking..I can’t sleep at night..I try to but I find myself watching the sun go up and down…I miss my husband we been together for 2 years in a half and we recently married in April on the 28th…Talk about I been a mess..He doesn’t come back until October I don’t know what to do with myself I don’t work right now so you can imagine all the time on my hands I have..I thought about spending time with my family while he was gone to take a little vacation.

  5. I’m so glad I read this my fiance just left today basically he’s in a hotel already miss him, he’s already had a little thought of not wanting to go but knows he needs to I wish he wasn’t but I’m worried of his letters how long should I be waiting for a letter, I’m just scared he won’t have time to write one

  6. Thank you, Stacey, for being my encouragement as I encourage my soldier! We have a few weeks left before turning blue ceremony, and I couldn’t have described that any better!

  7. Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement! Write letters every day telling your soldier how proud you are of them. Start writing letters every day when they give you their mailing address. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. It takes a couple weeks for them to get their mail. Keep the letters positive. Zero bad news if it can be avoided. Expect depressed moods and regret at first. It will get better. Tell them that. Tell them that graduation is friggin’ awesome and will be the proudest moment of their lives (it is!!!). As soon as you get their graduation date start making plans to attend and tell them that. Get hotel reservations done as soon as possible. If they are at Ft. Benning stay at the Hampton Inn on base. It is an awesome hotel within walking distance of the graduation stadium!!! Get as many family members to attend as humanly possible. Graduation is a very special day. Tell them that and that life after basic in the military is completely different!

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