Long time soldiers or wet-behind-the-ears recruits might need to be tough to make it through their tour of duty. Giving the right encouraging words for someone in the military can do much to keep the warm memories of home, family and friends fresh in their minds. Let them know they're supported by the people who love them.
Remind your servicemember, whether a family member or a pen pal, that they are important. Let them know how much everyone misses them, but don't overdo it. Here are some phrases that can help them share in the joy of home, family and friends without constant reminders that they're not there to take part.
- We all love you so much! Stay safe and keep in touch - we read all your letters!
- We can't wait to see you again, but we all know you're working hard keeping us safe. We love you!
- Everyone here is so proud of your service. We brag about you all the time.
- I was thinking about you all day today. Make sure you think about me tomorrow.
- We had your best friend over for dinner last night. He sends all his love and prayers.
It can be a challenge to find a tone that keeps soldiers and other military personnel engaged in all the goings-on at home without reminding them of things they're missing. Focus on positive things and ways to share moments - trading physical letters, saying prayers or thinking good wishes at a synchronized time each day - that keep your member of the military involved in your daily life.
Military folks love a good joke, so remember to keep it light. A good joke or simple game you can play through correspondence is always welcome, as are pictures of kids or pets doing funny stunts. Try not to overburden them with drama and difficulty at home. There's not much they can do from where they are. Of course, that shouldn't extend to hiding important events from them, but whenever possible, shoot for a light tone. Here are a few examples.
- We found this page full of so-called military slang. Do you all really talk like this? What's it missing? Don't worry, we'll edit the dirty words out before we show the kids!
- We want to hear about the new people you've met! Who's the funniest person in your unit?
- Have there been any surprises in your service? We know the dress code is tight and the food is bad, but otherwise we're just clueless civvies. What little things wouldn't we expect?
- We found the "16 biggest military lies." How many have you heard so far? Can you add any?
In any branch of the service, focus and morale are vital. Do your part by keeping your communication as light, engaging and entertaining as you can.
Encouraging words aren't limited to snail mail. Many soldiers and military servicepeople have access to email, even in the most remote parts of the globe. Take advantage of the immediacy of email to drop a line on a frequent basis. Send links to interesting, amusing sites that can help distract from the tension and boredom of active duty.
Better yet, send pictures! If your loved one is lucky enough to have email access, send all the pictures you can. Here are a few ideas, along with the words to include.
- Here's us reading your last letter! We printed it out so we could all share.
- We printed and mounted a map showing all the places you've been stationed. Guess it's one way to see the world!
- We were all out in the park playing with the dog for this one. Nothing special; we just took a picture because we were thinking about you.
- Here's a bunch of us at your favorite restaurant. We promise you have a fat steak waiting the moment you get home!
- We got you a present! Here's a picture to tide you over until the package arrives.
If you and your servicemember are lucky enough to have access to email, make sure you send pictures from home. Even just a quick cell phone picture of a child can lift their spirits and make them feel closer to their nearest and dearest.
Above all, when you're corresponding with a servicemember you're close to, let them know how proud you are of what they're doing. Very few people are called upon to risk their lives in the course of their job.
Of course, people in the military know their work is dangerous and the last thing they need is a reminder. What they can use is a pat on the back. The simple sentiment of "You're doing a great job and we're all proud of you" can go a long way to inspire and comfort a struggling servicemember.