The Art of the Military Love Letter


In case it hasn't become totally obvious by now, I love to write.  My usual medium is the computer, because it's so easy and quick; but if I have my choice I will write long heartfelt letters on interesting papers with my trademarked purple ink.  With perfume, of course.  Because getting a nice, juicy letter that isn't perfumed is just a bit of a let-down.

My husband's job has had him gone a LOT.  If it's not deployment, he's away on some TDY or another.  Often a school, sometimes training, sometimes he's got a job to do stateside.  I don't know how we'd function if we didn't have access to email, IM, and google-talk.  You may not have seen me in person, but you can probably tell that not only do I love to write, I love to talk, too.

But even on the shortest of hubby's TDY's - ones that last a week or so - I still break out my special stationary and pens and write him at least one letter.

Long, long ago in an Army far, far away... oh, wait, I'm mixing up hubby's tanker time with Star Wars.  Let me try that again.

When hubby first enlisted and got sent away for field training exercises, we had no mode of communication while he was gone.  He was just gone.  It was then that I started using letters as a kind of running commentary about what was going on at home.  The letters were long, and I suppose some people might have found them interesting.  At the time, I was waiting tables at Denny's while working through college.  My letters often sounded something like this:

Dear Sweetie:

There's this irritating person who always wants to sit on MY section of the counter.  She is driving me nuts.  She only orders coffee, then she tries to get me to give her "just a taste" of ice cream in the coffee for free.  EVERY DAY.  I hate her.  She never tips and I have to refill her coffee every 32 seconds.  I know, because I timed her.  This week she kept motioning at me while I was taking someone else's order that she needed more coffee.  I nodded at her, and finished taking the order.  I was going to refill her coffee on the way back, but she had a hissy fit that I didn't stop everything and go salaam at her feet right then and called the manager out.  I'm wishing very bad things to happen to that women.  I should probably go to confession about it.

And while hubby appreciated knowing what was going on at home when he wasn't with us, the long chatty missives I sent him as often as possible weren't having quite the effect I wanted them to have.  Specifically, I have this burning desire to knock the man's socks off no matter where he is.  Quite frequently I feel so tired and worn down while hubby is gone that I just don't want to summon up the creativity and passion that such a letter requires.  I'm not feeling particularly positive, either, and I'm afraid that will shine through.  The rewards are just so great when he gets one  of my love letters that it is worth it, though.  And when I am writing them, I find myself living them.

It took some time, but I finally discovered our formula for the military love letter.

The military love letter is a bit different from a civilian love letter.  First, it's not quite as sappy - and I mean sappy in the nicest way possible.  It's just too easy to go from how much you need someone and all the things they do for you to "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, COME HOME NOW BEFORE I FALL COMPLETELY APART!"  Which, we all know, is often how we feel.  Unfortunately, they know we often feel like that, too, and rubbing that salt in their wounds just won't help them get through the day at all.  We walk a very fine line in our communications - love letters or not. 

Second, the military love letter celebrates our independence and strength at the same time as it emphasizes how much our loved one is needed.  Not such an easy task at all!  We have to make them feel somehow stronger after reading it, and more able to get the job done and come home safely, while at the same time making them understand just how important they are to us without adding to their guilt for our situations at home.  We have to let them know they are so important that we think about them all day and worry, but we can't let on that it often consumes our every thought.

Really, the military love letter is not an easy thing.

The military love letter is also not a form letter.  It all depends on the people sending it and the people receiving it.  For instance, if I sent my husband a letter on frilly pink stationary, he'd probably send someone to check on my mental state.  And he'd hide the letter, just because - well, we don't do frilly and pink.  But frilly and pink may be perfectly in character for someone else.

Also, my love letters are probably more, ahem, graphic, than what other people might be comfortable with.  Then again, they are a good deal less graphic than the letters of others.   The scenes that you set in your letters depend totally on what you and your loved one are comfortable with.  Some people are more Jane Austin and some are more Kama Sutra. And when I say, "what you are comfortable with", I really mean it.  You should never send anyone something you don't want possibly getting out.  Most loved ones will not share these kinds of things when deployed, but you can't account for all situations in a war zone.  I know that my hubby carried some of my letters with him when he was out and about - there's always the possibility that something could have happened that scattered my heartfelt pages to the winds in Kabul or Baghdad.  I don't want my parents seeing the kinds of things I write to my husband when we've been apart for months and months, but then again - I think they would understand if word got out.  And besides, I'm married.  It's legal - even under the UCMJ.

So, with all that out of the way, here are a few suggestions for military love letters.

1)  Use something that immediately reminds him/her of you.  I only write in purple ink - checks, bills, letters, forms - it's always purple.  I also spray my love-letters to hubby with Sunflowers - the perfume I've worn since I was 16 years old.  As soon as hubby opens a letter of that color and with that smell, he knows something is up and he is ready for it.  It sets the mood immediately.

2)  Make the letter as neat as possible.  I usually re-write my torrid love letters to hubby so that they are in my best handwriting, with no scratch-outs or erasings.  Once again, this emphasizes how special this letter is.  And when you emphasize how special the letter is, you are emphasizing how special they are to you.

3)  Try not to bring up things that are happening at home currently or be newsy-chatty in letters meant to be hot and spicy. Newsy-chatty letters are important, too, but your most recent trip to the ob/gyn or your diagnosis of athletes foot doesn't quite set the candle-light romantic mood for most people.

3)  If you are at a loss of where to start the letter, try reminiscing about something wonderful and romantic you two did in the past - your honeymoon trip to Hawaii or that night you camped in the back-yard.  Use descriptions frequently, and the word "remember" a lot.  Talk a little bit about how wonderful you thought that event was, how much it meant to you, and how you'll never forget it.

4)  Once the mood is set, try describing something the two of you will do when they come back home.  It doesn't have to be the script for the next Debbie Does Dallas movie, in fact - the graphic nature of that might take away from the overall emotion you are trying to get across.  Then again - don't feel like your letter has to read like Great Expectations, either.  Find the mix that works for you.

5)  Re-read the letter.  Does it steam?  Do your socks fly off your feet in anticipation of how your sweetie is going to react?  Does a big heart fly up into the sky and hover over the paper?  THAT is what you want your spouse to experience.  If it's not quite there, tinker with it.  Do you need more descriptives?  More words like beloved, sweetie, baby, or whatever personal nicknames you two use at home?

There were honestly times that I did not feel the urge to sit down and write my once-weekly torrid love letter to hubby.  The kids were sick, I was tired, the washing machine broke, and the dog ran away down the street taunting me by letting me get just close enough to smell his stinky fur upwind before dashing off out of reach again.  But after a few letters, I realized that those were exactly the times I needed to remind myself just how much I loved that man who was thousands of miles away living in worse circumstances than I.  And it wasn't uncommon for me to have days like that, and then get a phone call from a husband who had just received my love letter in the mail and gone off to read it on his own.  He would be talking to me, socks off, in that special voice that we use when we remember exactly why we want to be together for the rest of our lives.

I kept all of hubby's love letters to me, they are in a little basket where curious kids won't be tempted to read them.  I'm a girl - and girls are emotional that way.  But it really surprised me to see when he came home that hubby had carefully kept all my letters to him, too.  He kept them in ziploc bags to protect them from the conditions and to preserve the smell of my perfumes.  And the letters were well worn - because they had been read over and over again and carried around in his blouse pocket, close at hand.

It was seeing those letters that brought home to me just how important I was to my husband.  And I plan to write him love letters whenever he is gone for the rest of our lives.


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