Incoming Class of 2017 at the U.S. Military Service Academies

Project Write2Them is gearing up for another great summer of providing service to the families of the incoming class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, West Point – U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

During cadet and midshipmen basic training, these young men and women will forgo the use of cell phones and computers for 6-8 weeks and start their journey to become officers in our armed forces. “Mail Call is simply the best part of their day and we make it easier for the families to stay in touch by turning their emails into letters from home,” says Helen Simmons, Executive Director. Families can add friends to their account, so their loved ones can receive lots of positive support during this very difficult training.

Project Write2Them is pleased to announce that they will offer to each Service Academy parents club a gift certificate for a free subscription for service during the 2013 summer basic training at the US Military Service Academies. All official parent clubs are welcome to request a gift certificate, which they may choose to raffle off as a fundraiser or simply use as a door prize. Club Presidents should contact for more information and to request a gift certificate.

The Class of 2017 begins basic training at the service academies on the following dates:
Cadet Basic Training at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) – June 27th
Plebe Summer at the US Naval Academy (USNA) – June 27th
“BEAST” Cadet Basic Training at West Point (USMA) – July 1st
Swab Summer at the Coast Guard Academy – July 1st.

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Mail and Entertainment

I thought this was an interesting and fun read. Here’s an Army Drill Sergeant’s entertaining look at some of the mail sent to recruits at basic training. No problem with Project Write2Them mail, however, plain white envelopes properly addressed (with plt numbers and names on the back flap), just full of postive thoughts from home. Project Write2Them sends letters to all basic training and boot camp locations.

Life of an Army Drill Sergeant

Army privates are briefed from the moment they step off the bus at the reception station about contraband such as food, drinks, drugs, etc.  They are not allowed to keep any of these items.  They are later briefed about receiving mail; what they can have and what they can’t have.  We allow them to call home, I reiterate to them,”Tell your families and friends not to send you any kind of food, medicine, electronic devices because you cannot have those things while in basic training.
Throughout my time as a drill sergeant I have seen many interesting packages such as baby wipe containers that have a piece cut out of the center with candy.  I noticed that the package of wipes didn’t have the cellophane wrapping on it.  Then when the private opened it, it was just wipes, until you took the top layer off.  How about shampoo or lotion bottles?  Well…

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Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon bombings

This blog is so completely ‘off topic’ for Project Write2Them, but I simply must share in light of the tragedy Monday in Boston…Boston, my hometown!

My heart is breaking as I think of all my family and friends in Boston, who have experienced first-hand the terror and heartache of a terrorist attack. This event especially hits home because I grew up in the wonderful town of Medford, Massachusetts, whose citizens are grieving the loss of one of their own daughters, a lovely 29 year-old woman, Krystle Campbell.

I call Medford a ‘town’ because Medford is the biggest ‘small town’ in the metro Boston area. A mere 7 miles north of Boston, Medford is actually a city of 60,000 people, where it seems everyone is related to someone in town or knows someone’s family. Families intermarry, adult children buy their aging parents home and generation after generation return to the ‘fold’ of the Medford community. Medford celebrated families and its rich heritage in history of the early American colonies. Growing up in Medford, my parents never worried about myself or my two sisters; we played outside until the street lights came on. Dodge ball, kick ball, arrow tag and Red Rover filled our days and nights…neighborhood games played on the quiet side streets and in friends’ yards.

Patriot’s Day weekend was always a special time in Medford, a parade followed by the reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride from Charlestown through Medford to Arlington and finally, Lexington and Concord, spreading the word to the Colonists that the Red Coats (the British Soldiers) were marching out from Boston. On April 19, 1776, Colonists fought the British in the famous Battle of Lexington and Concord, where the ‘first shot heard around the world’ was fired and a wonderful new nation was born. Returning home to Medford on Patriot’s Day weekend was like coming home on Thanksgiving, complete with attending the 100 year-old Thanksgiving Day morning football rivalry with neighboring Malden or coming home for Christmas. Simply put, Patriot’s Day weekend was always a mini high school reunion! Just walking through ‘the Square’, you were sure to meet friends from elementary, middle and high school, their siblings and their parents! Now, maybe these experiences are not unique for some towns across our country, but graduating classes from Medford High School during the 1970’s and 1980’s had between 750-900 students.

As I complete this blog, Boston and the surrounding communities are on lock down as the police and Federal law enforcement officials are in pursuit of the one remaining terrorist, the other killed earlier. I hope that the capture of those responsible for this terrorist action bring some peace to the people of Boston.

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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!

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How to Write a Thank-you Note – This was so entertaining!

I am just about to finish up my Christmas and holiday thank you notes, so I was intrigued when I was alerted to this wonderfully entertaining blog from imissyouwheniblink entitled ‘How to write a Thank-you Note’ . You can find the blog at

Writing a great note is not always easy, but is almost always treasured and appreciated by the recipient. In fact, except for wedding gifts and baby shower gifts, I am not sure how many people actually handwrite and mail thank you notes today. If you are inclined to send a written (or an email) note, this blog presents a nice reminder for how to craft a thank you note and then proceeds to entertain us in a very humorous way. Read through her examples that cover a variety of ‘tricky’ thank note situations and get inspired to write those notes or email! At the very least, you will have a good laugh.

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Eight Great Ideas When Writing Letters to Recruits at Basic Training

When our loved ones are away at Boot Camp or Basic Military Training, we want to show our love and support by keeping a steady stream of letters (or emails if you use Write2Them) coming their way.  I know the whole idea of a blank piece of paper or an empty email with only the TO and From fields filled in is intimidating, but don’t be afraid..your Airman, Soldier, Guardsman, Sailor or Marine will be so happy to hear from you!

If you’re committed to writing letters to your loved one at basic training every day, as many of our customers are, or you simply want to send just one letter a week, this article is for you.

The most important thing is simply to write to your loved one at Basic Training and keep your letters positive.  You don’t have to write long letters; short little notes or random thoughts that come to you throughout the day are perfect.

You don’t have to be creative to get a short note out to your loved one. Remember all news from home is new to them!

Here are eight more ideas that you might put in your letter (or email) to your son, daughter, grandchild or spouse while they are at Basic Training.

1)      Updates on their hometown sports teams (high school, college and pros) will give you plenty of ‘newsy’ items to share!  Most national and local newspapers publish their papers on the Internet and many times you can simply ‘copy and paste’ the text.

2)      Stories about your day, what the dog did, what brothers and sisters are doing.

3)      Photos of family members and pets (no nude photos, please); we don’t want our recruits getting in trouble.

4)      Art work from young children in the household.

5)      Send jokes…no one needs a smile more than someone going through boot camp or  basic training.  I like Knock Knock jokes because they are either so corny that you smile, groan and shake your head or you smile and chuckle because they are amazingly clever. Either way your loved one should be smiling!

You can find a nice selection of Knock Knock jokes at or that are rated P-PG, no need to get your Soldier, Guardsman, Sailor, Airmen or Marine in trouble.

6)      Bible quotes and  other motivational quotes and stories (I’ll be putting together some suggestions in a later Blog)

7)      Each day you probably receive at least one forwarded email from your friends with the latest in cute animal photos or funny cartoons.

8)     ALWAYS tell them how PROUD you are of them and their decision to serve our country, how much you LOVE and CARE about them and how much you are looking forward to GRADUATION DAY when you can give them a big hug!

The bottom line is write to them and encourage other family members and friends to write too! When their name is called at Mail Call, they will be excited to get their “Letter from Home”.

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Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing Letters to Recruits at Basic Training

Here’s a reposting of our Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing to Recruits at Basic Training or Boot Camp.

So now your son or daughter, boyfriend or girlfriend, brother, sister or friend has headed off to Basic Training or Boot Camp. These next 8 to 10 weeks, or in the case of Marines 13 weeks will be some of the most challenging times for them and you.

Away from home, parents, loved ones, buddies and friends and surrounded by strangers (the other recruits) and non-smiling TI (Technical Instructors) or DI (Drill Instructors), the questions are… How do you stay in touch with them? How often should  you write? What should you say to help through the training until you can see them again at graduation?

Here are 5 simple Do’s and Don’t’s.

The DO’s.

  1. Simply write often to your soldier, sailor, airman, marine and guardsman. Remember …The best time of the day for these recruits will be ‘Mail Call’ ….especially when their name is called out!
  2. You don’t have to write a long letter; short upbeat notes from home can be just as effective.
  3. Send them photos, news about their favorite sports team or what’s going on at home.
  4. Use plain white envelopes, don’t decorate or scent the envelopes; this can get the Technical Instructor or Drill Instructors attention… usually not a good thing.
  5. Do tell them that you’re proud of them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them at Graduation or when they return home from training for a visit.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t send money; they don’t have much spare time or access to shopping and all money is logged in and locked up. This more work for the Instructors and trouble for your recruit. I made this mistake myself!
  2. Don’t send pornography or ‘pin-up’ or nude photos, off-color or racist jokes or comics. These items can get your soldier, sailor, marine, airman or guardsman in serious trouble.
  3. Don’t send packages of goodies. Basic is not the time for ‘Care Packages”.
  4. Don’t complain about not being able to talk to them or about how lonely you are. They are worried about doing well in training, may be homesick  and wish they could talk more often to you. Hearing that you’re upset is another worry for them.
  5. Don’t send bad news…almost anything can wait until they have completed training.  Of course, in the event of family illness or death, you should contact the American Red Cross who will get in touch with your loved ones training commanders.

Services like Write2Them can make it easier for you and their friends to stay in touch while your loved one is at Basic Training or Boot Camp by letting you send email with attachments such as photos or newspaper articles, sport team updates, jokes, funny or inspirational stories, favorite quotes or Bible verses.  You can find more information about the Write2Them service at

Please feel free to add your ideas to this post,

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Entering the Military ….Going off to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations)

Every Tuesday I think about all the young men and women who are about to leave their families and head off to Boot Camp or Basic Training at one of our military installations. I also think and pray for the family members they leave behind, especially the Moms. Yes, Dads, Brothers and Sisters will also miss their sons and siblings, but Moms take it the hardest.  It’s so difficult to see one of your ‘chicks’ leave the nest, especially when they are heading off to the military.

Some families are able to accompany their sons and daughters to the nearest MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations to witness the taking of the oath of allegiance and service to our country and to say their goodbyes. Others continue on to the airport to spend their final moments together. Many simply say their goodbyes the night before…one last hug until they see their loved one at the completion of training…graduation day.

I’ll always remember that afternoon in March 2010, when our local Air Force Recruiter, SSgt. came to pick up my son to bring him to the hotel the evening before his trip to MEPS ( Military Entrance Processing Station) in downtown Boston.  In the Boston area, new recruits for all branches of the armed services Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard are brought to a central hotel the night before they are about to enter the military. I believe this to prevent ‘one last night of partying’ that might result in the young man or woman arriving at MEPS late, hung over or worse, but this wouldn’t have been an issue for our son, who had been training for Basic Training for months while a member of his DEP.

Last family photo until graduation from Air Force Basic Training

Anyway it was a gray, rainy day as our family gathered for the last time in our normally sunny living room, spending our last minutes together; taking family photos which of course included our black Labrador, Jewel. Our family would be forever changed! We would never take for granted seeing each other and talking to one another on a daily basis.

The next day we (now this meant just my husband, daughter and myself) piled into the car to head down to MEPS to spend our last hours with Andrew before he headed off to Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland AFB in Texas.

As our son went from one meeting to another, receiving and signing his ‘contract’ for his military service, we sat anxiously waiting in a room that had at one time been a cafeteria. Throughout the large room filled with rows of long tables with uncomfortable chairs, we watched other families huddled together; some quietly talking, others reading, while others simply stared into space. I think this was the longest morning of my life and I am sure that other families were feeling the same way.

Finally, all of the recruits had signed their contracts and been processed. The final and most important step was the administration of the Oath of Service, pledging to protect our country from all enemies both foreign and domestic. I remember the announcement that we should all proceed to the conference room where all of the recruits were standing in formation in the center.  The Naval Officer who was to administer the oath urged us all to come in and line the walls of the room and be ready to take photos.  Her warmth and kind words made us all feel welcome and very proud of the committment that our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were about to make. It was extremely moving to hear these young adults repeat the words of the Oath of Service. Those that choose to serve are a very special breed.

After the ceremony, it was a quick hug and kiss goodbye for us and off he went to the airport for the flight to San Antonio. While the ceremony may have only lasted 15 minutes, the memories of that moment are still with me today.

On the way home from MEPS in between the wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, I was thinking about how could I easily stay in touch with my son during Basic Training and as importantly how I could encourage friends and family members to write to him…and that the hatched idea for Write2Them.

My son who normally wore his hair cut short in military style enjoyed growing it out in the months before heading off to Basic Training at Lackland AFB.

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Proud Mom of Two Marines

One of my favorite bloggers, 3 Quarters Today  is the Proud Mom of two Marines . I like all of her postings, but especially enjoy her postings supporting our military and their families.

In addition to her writing, she has just launched a store on CafePress with some items especially for a Marine Mom with Two Marines! The store can be found at

One of the reasons I enjoy her blog is that Write2Them has many Marine Corps families using the Write2Them service to stay in touch with their loved one during the 13 week boot camp at both Marine Recruit Depot, San Diego (MRD San Diego) and Marine Recruit Depot, Parris Island (MRD Parris Island).  I can only imagine how difficult it is for parents, other family members and friends to keep up a steady stream of letters to their Recruit over the 13 weeks and that’s where the convinence of Write2Them can really help. Friends and family can all use the account and send emails that we turn into letters.

Another reason is that I am the proud daughter of a WWII Marine who served with the 6th Marine Division during the battles of Okinawa and Guadalcanal.

It’s my experience that many Marine Corps families have more than one Marine currently serving our country; whether it’s a son or daughter, husband or wife, boyfriend or  girlfriend … Serve in the Marines run in families.

As those of us with a Marine know, once a Marine ALWAYS a Marine.

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Writing Letters to our Senior Citizens

I think many people are intimidated with the idea of writing a letter; that blank sheet of stationery, a blank new Word document  or a blank email scares many of us.  What do I write? What could I say that would be interesting to someone? I don’t have time to write a letter?

Well, in the case of writing to our Seniors Citizens, any email or letter you write and send to them will be interesting. You will be keeping them connected to your family, your community and the world around them. Emails or letters do not have to be long multi page efforts. The joy of sending an email is that we expect it to be a short update or note and the bonus is that we can easily attach a photo, artwork or newspaper article.

I found this article entitled Letter Writing – Bless an Elder posted by Karen Everett Walker of that struck a chord with me.  Aging Enriched Network is a one-stop information and referral network of the Lutheran Homes of Michigan. The article talks about the dying art of letter writing and the impact that receiving a letter has on our Seniors. The article provides some wonderful ideas as writing prompts for starting a letter.

This article reminded me how useful the Write2Them service can be for keeping our aging parents who prefer not to use or do not have access to a computer or email connected with family and friends. Write2Them is the best of both worlds; it lets you use email to write to your loved one, but without the hassle of handwriting a letter, finding an envelope and stamp and taking it to the post office.

Image © istockphoto

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