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Last Thursday was a red letter day for us because we received two letters from Ethan…although the letters were actually more desert camo color than red. Ethan is in his fourth week of army basic training at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina.

Ethan wrote one of the letters on Sunday. I wonder how much “encouragement” the drill sergeants give the soldiers to write home during their few minutes of free time. “Send your mom a nice letter telling her that you love her or drop and give me 20, maggot!” Even if the communication is born out of a desire to avoid pain rather than being a free will expression of love, it doesn’t make me any less happy to get the letter.

The second letter was written the next day at 3:15 am. He was stuck on a two-hour fireguard shift because the alarms went down and the drill sergeants had to make sure that no one sneaked in or out of the female soldiers’ bay. The fact that he was writing in the wee hours of the morning was reflected in his penmanship. I don’t know what time it was when he finished the letter but his writing got smaller and smaller as he struggled to maintain his focus and simply stay awake.

Before he left for basic training, when he mentioned to someone within the army that he was going to Ft. Jackson, they would sometimes respond with “Oh, so you’re going to ‘Relaxin’ Jackson.’” At least from Ethan’s perspective, that’s pure myth because he ended up in what he believes is the hardest platoon in the hardest company in the base…I wonder if every soldier at Ft. Jackson has that same belief.

Ethan went onto say that he has two infantry drill sergeants who push them hard. Knowing that I’m a bit of a drill sergeant in my own way he said of them,  “Mom would approve though.” He is so right; pushing my son that so he finds out what he is fully capable of, definitely gets my Seal of Approval.

Based on the information in his letters, I’m learning that there two types of currency in BCT: push ups and phone calls. Push ups are the payment for messing up. Ethan says that 25 is rapidly becoming an insignificant number of push ups to do at any one time. Hmmm, hard to know if that’s a good thing or not.

This soldier has the same reaction as Ethan; "What is this stuff?!"

The other type of currency is a phone call which is the reward that soldiers earn for achieving a certain standard in their training. In his Basic Rifle Marksmanship test next week, he is aiming to score 36/40 which is expert and earns him a phone call. Our cell phones never leave our side now.

His stories about BCT are evidence that the army really does run on its stomach. As a child, Ethan never took much interest in what he ate; if there was a box of Triscuits in the house he was happy. So I’m surprised at how much he talks about food in his letters. He signed off his 3:00am letter by telling us that eating MRE’s for lunch and dinner should be considered a war crime. I can’t wait to hear about the Thanksgiving feast at Ft. Jackson. I only hope it doesn’t come in a pouch.

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