As of Saturday, Ethan was two weeks into basic training and we hadn’t gotten any letters from him. We had been told by parents of other soldiers that the drill sergeants make the recruits write to their families. We knew that getting a phone call from him was unlikely until he had been in long enough to have an opportunity to earn phone privileges as a reward for good behavior. So although we weren’t worried – if something really bad happened to him – beyond the disorientation, physical exhaustion and verbal abuse that is an expected part of basic training – I’m sure the army would let us know.

So when I came home from church today and found a voice mail message from him on our machine, I was very surprised and happy. But the best part was that by the time he had finished saying, “Hey, it’s me, Ethan,” I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was doing just fine. Mom and dad could breathe a big sigh of relief.

He explained that they were “good” so they had earned a “secret” phone call and that’s why he was only going to be able to talk for a couple of minutes and he had to keep his voice low.

He said basic training is “tough as hell but worth it.” It would be hard not to feel a surge of pride both in him and the army over that statement.

In his rushed phone report, he told us that in the past two weeks he has repelled, done the gas chamber training, can now do a ****load of pushups, he can run forever, and stand at attention until his feet feel like they are going to fall off. This is from a kid who spent so much time playing video games when he was in his early teens, that we joked that the strongest part of his body was his thumbs.

They get up at 5am and go to bed at 9pm; the food is good and there are a lot of great guys. He sends his love to us, love to his two younger sisters (that’s a first!) and he wants us to go pester the cat for him. “Don’t worry about me; I’m doing good.”

He wrapped up the call by saying that he would write but when we get his address, don’t write back. For some reason that I don’t quite understand, getting a letter means having to do more pushups. That’s certainly not going to stop me; I’ll just be helping him get army strong a little bit faster.