Planning a Party Before Your Son or Daughter Leaves for Basic Training or Boot Camp.

I’ll admit it; I do like to gather friends and family together for any occasion…or for no occasion at all, other than to spent time together!

Before our son headed off to Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, we gathered friends and family together for a party! My son wasn’t too excited about the idea initially (he didn’t want to be the center of attention), but during the party he told me how much he enjoyed it and thanked me for putting it all together.  I know the idea of having a celebration when you worried sick and sad about your ‘baby’ heading off to the military seems like the wrong thing to do, but a party or get-together can be a wonderful memory for all of you.  Focusing on the party plans can be a welcome diversion to all the worry and anxiety that you’ll have before they head off to boot camp or basic training.

The get-together can be as easy as a Saturday or Sunday open house with sodas, lemonade, ice tea (or hot coffee and tea) and cake and cookies or it can involve more substantial food offerings like a backyard BBQ, pasta and salad or cold cuts.

Here are some ideas for making this party or get together special.

Party Planning – The Details

1) Set the date and time. I would recommend 2 to 3 weeks before your loved one is scheduled to leave, in case the report date gets moved up.  3 hours is a good amount of time for an open house; 6-9 on weekdays and 1-4 on Saturday and Sundays.

2) Send out invitations or call family and friends with all the details (date, time and place).

3) Every family and area of the country has their own traditions and expectations of food and drink that will be offered at a party or gathering.  Time of day has a lot to do with the amount and type of food to serve. One idea is to have all of your son or daughter’s family favorite recipes. Another idea is to plan a “Souper” party with soup and chili along with assorted breads, crackers and chips.

Cake, pies and cookies are good sweets and the cake can serve as the table centerpiece until eaten.Most bakeries can reproduce the military insignia on the cake and add appropriate words such as “Basic Training (or Boot Camp) is a piece of cake” or simply “Best Wishes” or “Good Luck”, etc.

If people want to help out by bringing food and drinks, be ready with a suggestion for them.

Just make sure that you keep it simple and ask family and friends to help so that you can enjoy this time, too.

4) Decorations and balloons make any get-together more festive and this party is no exception!

Red, white and blue decorations lend that patriotic feel to the occasion and can be used for any branch of military service.  For Air Force, you might want to add silver to the mix. For the Army and Marines, you might select a camouflage theme. For Navy and Coast Guard, a nautical theme might be appropriate. You can find Service specific decorations, table and party ware in party stores or on-line at several different sites.

5) Take lots of photos of your son or daughter with  family and friends.  Remember to get  photos of you with the new recruit and other family members and of course, their friends. You can print out these photos and they can take them along to Basic Training or send them out in your letters after they arrive at boot camp or basic training. Photos of friends and family and don’t forget the family pets are always welcome in those letters!

6) Have a notebook handy for family and friends to write down notes of support and best wishes to your son or daughter. They will enjoy reading these on the plane to their training location or when they need some support during Basic Training or Boot Camp. Make sure that they put their mailing address in the book so your son or daughter has these addresses for filling out the security information for graduation day passes.  While your son or daughter will probably be too tired to send many letters to family and friends back home, but having the addresses will certainly help, if they do want to write.

7) Another idea is to have a stack of postcards available so guests write a short note. Once you receive your  mailing address at Basic Training, you can address the cards and send them out.

8) For making sure that your Recruit gets lots of notes from family and friends, you might want to look at a service such as Write2Them, which lets family and friends send email to a special email address and they make sure the emails are mailed out to your loved one. Be sure to get everyone’s email address at the party, so you can add them as Friends when you set up your Write2Them account. This way they can easily continue to send notes of support and photos to your loved one via email throughout basic training.

Remember, whether your gathering or party just has immediate family or includes friends, this is a very special time. Be sure to enjoy these days and the time you spend with your loved one before they head off to Basic Training or Boot Camp!

I’d love to hear about your party! Share your tips along with any photos here!

About Helen Simmons

I am founder and Executive Director of Write2Them, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving communication between family members and loved ones in military service by turning email into letters from home. You send email and your loved one receives a letter. I am a proud mother of a Airman, a wonderful daughter and son-in-law and wife to my wonderful supportive husband of 30 years.
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17 Responses to Planning a Party Before Your Son or Daughter Leaves for Basic Training or Boot Camp.

  1. Terri says:

    I love your post. We have a lot of the same ideas. My son is leaving in June and i needed something to occupy my mind. I am really worried about him but so proud of him at the same time. Unlike your son, my son enlisted with the Marines. Lackland is only a few miles away from my home as I am in San Antonio. Anyway, thanks for the ideas they are great and best of luck to your son.

    • I am glad that some of the ideas were helpful to you! The party was a great diversion with all the planning and preparation, but the ‘see ya later’ day did arrive and somehow I made it through, letting the tears flow only after that last hug and he had rounded the corner to get on the bus to the airport. Thank you for your good wishes for my son.

      I know that you’re worried about him, but he’s obviously a very strong, determined and motivated young man and I am sure he’ll do well.
      Yes, you should be very proud ….not only of his decision to serve our country as a Marine, but that you raised such a responsible young man, who is willing to step up to the challenge and serve his country!

      You did a great job, Mom! Hang in there!

  2. Tara says:

    Wow! I love your ideas…my son is leaving Oct. 21st & I’m giving him an Army themed (camouflage) going away fish fry & will also have an airplane cake to surprise him since he’ll be an aircraft mechanic. I was going to have a large card for everyone to sign but I definitely love your ideas of the post cards, book signing & the Write2Them account as well.. I am so excited about his decision but my family will truly miss our soldier! Gods Blessing to you & your family & I certainly pray all is well with your son.

  3. Sandra says:

    Awesome!! My son leaves to the U.S. Air Force October 29, 2013 two days before his birthday, so it will be a double celebtation. thank you for all your awesome ideas.

    • Sandra,
      I am glad that you found the ideas helpful. I am sure that your party will be a wonderful time for your family and friends.
      After the party be sure to post some photos. Also, you should check out the Air Force Wing moms website at http://www.afwm.org and their Facebook page Air Force Moms are Angels and the Air Force Parents Facebook page. They have lots of information and are great support system for you.
      Good job for raising such a special person who is willing to serve in our country’s military! Please tell him that we appreciate his service!
      Best wishes to you both,
      Helen

  4. Pansy says:

    Thank you for your article – my son leaves January 14, 2014 and considering Christmas celebrations we decided a date in January for his party, which is closer to his departure. We have shared great times through the Thanksgiving holidays also. I am very proud of my son’s decision to serve in our armed forces and support that decision entirely, but I am still “Mom.” This will help me through this time of transition. Again, thank you for sharing your ideas and for being a MOM WITH A MISSION. God Bless!
    ARMY STRONG – GO ARMY! :)
    Pansy

    • HI Pansy,
      I know that you are enjoying this very special time with your son before he heads off to Basic Training! It takes a special family to raise a child who is willing to serve in our military and protect our great country.
      Congratulations on a job well done!
      You might want to join the NAMMAS – National Association of Military Moms and Spouses organization; Lori Bell has organized some great communities for moms and spouses to connect on line. Great information in the Newbies group and she hosts monthly Chick Chats.
      Thank you for your positive support. God Bless you and your son in the days ahead.
      Helen

  5. Heidi Bevis says:

    Thank you for the great ideas. My son leaves on Jan 21st for Lackland Air Force base. My heart is full and breaking at the same time. God Bless our troops!

    • Heidi,
      I know exactly how you feel…so much pride in your son’s decision, but concerned and worried at the same.
      I am glad you found the ideas helpful. Be sure to check out the Air Force Moms are Angels Facebook page. They are a great source of information and support for AF Moms. They also have private chat rooms for each TRS (Training Squadrons) while your son is at BMT.
      Are you going to be able to go the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) to see your son take the oath of service?
      Thanks for your support and for raising such a great son that he wants to our country.
      Enjoy these special days before your son heads off to Lackland.

  6. Aisha Thomas says:

    This was a lot of help! My husband is leaving in a few weeks for bmt, and I really want him to know that he’s loved even when he’s away.

    • Hi Aisha,
      I am glad you found the blog helpful. Always be positive in your letters to him while he is away. It is very important to keep them focused on learning and doing well in training. They are under a lot of stress and don’t need to be worried about you. Even though it will be hard for you both, if you’re both focused on the great future ahead, it really helps.
      Check out the Facebook page for Air Force Moms are Angels; they have support group for each training squadron. Also, the National Association of Military Moms and Spouses is a great support group.
      Wishing you both the best,
      Helen

  7. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! This summer we will have a triple celebration as my son graduates high school at the end of May, 18th Birthday at the end of July and the 1st week of August will leave for USMC boot camp! I am definitely using your postcard idea, as well as the notebook!

    • Wow! You will have a very busy spring and summer! Enjoy each moment of these celebrations!
      Will your son go to Parris Island or to San Diego for training? Both locations will be blazing hot in August, but he will probably be training for heading off to boot camp and will be ready for the heat.
      You might want to sign up for MarineParents.com website and specifically go to the Recruits parents section. They have wonderful information for Poolie parents…Recruits have to earned the title U.S. Marine and until graduation from boot camp are called Poolies.
      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Tina says:

    I love your ideas, my son leaves on my birthday(June 24), to go to National Guard in GA it’s gonna be difficult for me, but I am so excited for him. Tina

    • Hi Tina,
      I am glad you found the party ideas helpful! I am sure that you will have a special send off for him, but I know it will be difficult for you when he heads off for training. The “See ya laters” do get a bit easier, but it is never easy. No one can tell you how quickly those ‘growing up’ years go and no one can prepare you for them leaving the nest!
      I can’t imagine boot camp in GA during the summer months, but I know that the DI’s (Drill Instructors) will keep a close eye on them.
      Check out the NAMMAS (National Association of Military Moms and Spouses) for some great support.
      Also, check out Project Write2Them for making it easier to stay in touch while he’s off at boot camp.

  9. Tina Farley says:

    My daughter leaves for Army basics on Monday, I’m heartbroken but also proud! Your ideas are very helpful. Thanks!

    • Tina,
      Hang in there! It is so hard to let our children leave the nest and fly! Check out NAMMAS (National Association of Military Moms and Spouses); they are a wonderful group where you can get some support from moms who have been there too!
      You did a great job, Mom —raising a wonderful young woman who is willing to serve her country! Definitely be proud!!!
      Once you get her address be sure to write to her!

      Helen

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