After not hearing from Ethan since he left for basic training in South Carolina more than a month ago, we got our first letter from him last week. I loved that it was written on camo stationery. But it’s a good thing that drill sergeants don’t inspect the letters sent by the soldiers in their platoon; Ethan’s scratchy penmanship would certainly cost him a few dozen push ups.

He’s a third of the way through BCT (basic combat training) and it is proving to be everything he hoped. I believe he would have been disappointed to have the build up to going in the army and then get there only to find it like a glorified summer camp.

He reports it’s quite the contrary. “It is hard, every day. Every day brings some new challenge, some physical and some mental.” One of the challenges he is encountering is having patience for some of the kids who don’t pick things up as quickly as he does. He is also six years older than some of them so that is bound to give him an advantage at times. For a kid like Ethan who often wore his arrogance on his sleeve, learning how to work as a team with all types of people is a wonderful life skill.

It was so great to hear that he says the drill sergeants are “fantastic – way more than teachers to us, more like surrogate family.” To have that kind of respect for the authority figures around him inspires my faith in the army system.

He said that when they are able to eat in the mess hall, that the food is really good and even the MREs they eat when they are out marching aren’t too bad; it’s just that there is never enough food in them when you’ve been burning calories tromping through the woods of South Carolina for hours on end.

The second page of his letter was a “LIST OF STUFF I CAN DO NOW” written in the vernacular you might expect of a soldier. In addition to disassemble, clean, reassemble, fire and zero several different weapons, here are some highlights of his list:

–          Be covered (face, neck, arms and hands) in fire ant bites and not care

–          Climb down a 60 ft. rope bridge unsupported; not be a bitch about it

–          Carry a rifle everywhere, not get tired

–          Chug three quarts of water, run in place, spin around, do push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks; not throw up

–          Do land navigation, find five correct points in under one hour

And the last item on his list, “Plus so much more I can’t remember right now…” Evidence indeed that as he says in his letter, he’s “growing as a person and a solider.”