A male recruit writes a letter during his free time.

Make a Plan to Stay in Touch with Your Service Member

Communicating with friends and family is very important for service members; a phone call or care package can help them feel connected, boost spirits and improve focus. However, whether your service member is in boot camp, stationed far away or serving in a combat zone, it can be tough to get ahold of them sometimes.

One of the best ways to stay connected is to make a plan ahead of time. Talk with your service member about how and when you would like to communicate, and set expectations before your service member heads off to duty.

Letters and care packages

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Letters and care packages are a great way to let your service member know you are thinking of them.

It may feel old fashioned, but one the of the best ways to stay connected is through hand-written letters. You can send letters as frequently as you wish, just remember to number them as they may all arrive at the same time.

Care packages are also a great way to connect with your service member across the miles. If you’re not sure what to send, start with the basics: soap, socks, their favorite brand of deodorant or toothpaste. You may also send photographs, children’s artwork or other small reminders of home. There are some prohibited items for basic training, so be sure to discuss with your service member before sending non-perishable food like nuts and candy.

And, if they are stationed overseas, make sure you have the correct Army Post Office, or APO, or Fleet Post Office, or FPO, address.

Telephone, video chat, texting and social media

Technology is a wonderful way to stay connected no matter where your service member is in the world. Talk about how often they will be able to call or chat, and remember it may take a little while for them to figure out a work rhythm and set up a communication schedule that works consistently.

You may not be given a phone number to call your service member during their time in boot camp, but they will likely be able to call or text you while they are there. During boot camp, phone calls are often unscheduled so you may want to carry your cell phone with you at all times whenever they call. After boot camp, this restriction will ease for the rest of their time in the service, depending on their future assignments.

You may plan to write emails or use Facebook, Skype or other messaging apps, but remember, your service member may not always have easy access to the internet. Be cautious about sharing with others what you learn while talking to your service member. Even seemingly small pieces of information such as your service member’s specific location, the size of their unit, or a privately shared photograph can be more revealing than you think. Putting this information online or talking about it openly could put service members in danger. In the military, taking precautions to protect this type of information is called operational security, or OPSEC. As a trusted loved one of a service member, OPSEC is your responsibility as well.

A word about scams

Unfortunately, there are people who are looking to take advantage of family members and friends who are eager to hear from their service member. Be on the lookout for emails or other communications that seem “off.” Know that the military will never email you with sensitive information about your service member. If you suspect that an email may be a scam, contact your service member to verify whether they sent the message. If they did not, contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the would-be scammer.

Connect with people who get it

In the military, often the rule is “no news is good news.” But that can be tough for friends and family. When you can’t talk to your service member as frequently as you would like, it can help to talk with someone else who understands how you are feeling.

There are a number of places to connect with other parents, siblings, friends and loved ones of service members, online or in person. Follow your service member’s installation or boot camp social media site. It’s a great place to find general information and connect with people. The military community is here to support you, as you support your service member

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