Military Parents FAQ
If your son or daughter is entering the military, you may have many questions. Military life is very different from anything in the civilian world. Because of the unique needs of the military, rules and procedures have developed that may puzzle or cause anxiety for parents who are unfamiliar with the challenges and requirements of being in the military.
WELS Military Services has addressed some of the spiritual challenges. Check out Staying Close to God’s Word While in the Military and the resources for the WELS service member. Please provide contact information for WELS Military Services at wels.net/refer so we can provide God’s Word to your service member. Below are answers to some questions parents frequently have when their daughter or son joins the military.
My son is a junior in high school and wants to enlist in the military. I am very much against it but what should I do?
Have a discussion with your son about his interest in the military. Ask him what it is that is attracting him to this decision. You may receive an answer like:
- I want the adventure.
- I want to do something worthwhile with my life.
- I am not ready for college yet.
- I want to travel.
- I want to be a Ranger or a Seal.
- My friends are all doing it.
Try not to bring your negativity into the conversation but do bring up the commitment he must make (usually 2-8 years), the danger of the job, and the lack of control he will experience with his life. He will not be legally allowed to enlist in the military until he is 18 or has obtained a signature from a parent or guardian.
Accompany your son on a visit to the recruiter. Let your son take the lead in obtaining all the details, but by all means get all your questions answered. Ask for as much of the information as possible in writing so everyone can read, review and digest everything at home. Be prepared to have several conversations with the recruiter. Be sure to write your questions down as they pop up in your discussions with your son.
Remember your son is reaching early adulthood and wants to make his own choices about his life. Keep the lines of communication open by not being overly opinionated or judgmental. He still needs your loving guidance and also desires your approval. This is a huge life decision and should not be made hastily.
The recruiter has been offering my daughter the job of her choice and large sign on bonuses. How do I guarantee that these promises will actually occur?
Accompany your daughter to the recruiter and clarify all the details of the enlistment. Get everything in writing (in language that your daughter and you can understand). Be sure to ask for the military definition of the job that she is requesting. Often the civilian definition of the job can be quite different. An example would be if the recruiter had her assigned to go to a school to be a medic while your daughter had the understanding that she was going to be a nurse.
Every branch of the military offers different incentive packages. Bonuses can be given in cash, schooling, promotion, or better job assignment. Again have everything in writing. Know what you are getting and when you will receive it. Often young people expect a sign-on bonus at the actual time of signing. Most often that does not happen.
There are so many “hot beds” in the world right now that I worry that that my child will be put in a compromising situation and may actually have to shoot or be shot at. This is against how he has been both spiritually and morally raised. Who can we talk to about this?
Make an appointment to see your pastor as he will be able to give your child some spiritual guidance on this issue. The Bible has many references of war and also speaks of obeying the commands of the government.
Your recruiter also will be able to give some information on the physical and psychological training your child will go through before he is exposed to a threatening situation. There are specific books that the recruiter will recommend to your child to read that will offer experience and knowledge to better prepare him.
Does WELS offer any spiritual support to our sons and daughters in the military?
Yes! Talk with your pastor. He will contact the WELS Military Services Committee to have your child’s name placed on the mailing list. Applicants will start receiving devotions and other church-related spiritual materials on a regular basis. There is also an e-mail service if your child has access to a computer.
WELS tries very hard to keep in communication with its members but needs help to keep mailing addresses current. People in the military move frequently. It is common to move three or more times, especially in that first year. Please remember to notify the Committee as soon as an address change has occurred.
How can I best support my son even though I was and still am against his enlistment?
Focus on being positive about who your son is and what his needs are more than how much you are against an enlistment or the military. Your son will need spiritual support such as your prayers in addition to biblical and devotional materials. You will also find joy in sending packages (once he is out of boot camp) for his physical welfare – everything from favorite snacks to mementos from home to replacing worn out socks! Stay informed by learning what his experience will be like from reading recommended books, official websites and materials, and from others who have gone through the military.
My daughter will be leaving for Boot Camp soon. How can she start preparing herself physically and psychologically?
Most recruiters have information suggesting what to do during the days counting down to departure for boot camp. Your daughter should spend a good amount of time training physically by doing what she’ll be doing during boot camp: running, push ups, sit ups, swimming, etc. She should also eat healthy foods so as to ‘be fit’ on the inside! It would be wise for her to ask around and read articles which describe what will be expected of her during boot camp. This will help her to mentally prepare for the demands that will be placed upon her psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
I have heard all the nightmare stories about what goes on at Boot Camp. What can be done to ensure my son’s safety?
You will need to learn to trust the military. much of my praying started with, “God, he was your child long before he was my son. Please be with him when I cannot.” You can talk to your son’s recruiter or find information on-line regarding “What happens when…” Since the military wants your son to succeed it will do everything it can to make his success a reality.
How soon will I be able to communicate with my daughter after she enters Boot Camp?
Every branch of the military is different. Find out before your daughter leaves as to what to expect. You’ll usually receive a form letter within two weeks stating she has arrived safely. During the first days of boot camp recruits are ‘being sorted’ into companies and platoons so it will take a while for your daughter to literally get an address. You also have to keep in mind most bases have their own mail system. Therefore, you can add another day or two to the few days it takes a letter to go across the country from your home to boot camp. In addition, if your daughter is going through field training, such as rifle range, mail will be put on hold until she returns back to boot camp. The military realizes recruits thrive upon support from home so they do as much as they can to get them their mail.
What happens if there is an emergency and I need to get a hold of her?
Typically you will need to go through the Red Cross. Recruiters are known to ‘keep tabs’ on those they recruit so that may be another option.
Can I send little gifts and snacks during Boot Camp to encourage and remind my young adult that I am thinking of him?
It is best NOT to send anything to your child until you hear from them. They will be told very early in their training what they can and can not receive from friends and family while they are in boot camp. The military has their reasons for thoroughly monitoring everything in boot camp.
I heard from our recruiter that graduation day from Boot Camp is a big event. Should I plan on going? Will a lot of parents be there?
Definitely plan on going! Recruits look forward to and start the countdown to Graduation Day almost as soon as they arrive at boot camp. There are literally hundreds of family members who go to this event. It is the day your son transitions from Recruit to Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airman. There are very few dry eyes, many proud moments, lots of picture taking, and as in any graduation, family celebration time.
I was against my son enlisting. Now he wants me to fly out for graduation. I would like to support him but is this really necessary?
Whether or not you believe in your child’s choice to enlist, you will always be your child’s biggest advocate and fan. Attending this huge milestone in his life will demonstrate your love & support, give you an opportunity to learn more about something that has now become a part of your child’s life, and appreciate and admire what your son has accomplished throughout his boot camp experience.
My son is in great shape, why is he required to go to Boot Camp?
Boot camp is more than just working on a person’s physical fitness. Boot camp is also used to teach future enlistees teamwork, military traditions, first aid, history, and a plethora of other things necessary to further the effectiveness of a military unit in general. Boot camp is also used as a means to separate the individuals who display attitudes and behaviors that would pose an unreasonable risk to others in an adverse/hostile environment.
I heard that if you go into the Military through ROTC or other deferred college plans that Boot Camp is not required. Is this true?
Through the Officer programs (college) the service members do not participate in BOOT CAMP. However, they do attend one of several other training programs depending on which officer program they are participating in. One program calls it the Basic School. Another is the Platoon Leaders Course and another, the Midshipman Training. Essentially all of these training mediums are equivalent to Boot Camp except they are designed and focus toward training officers.
If my son finds it too difficult, can he quit?
Keep in mind that every son or daughter joined the military for a reason. Is it too difficult physically or too difficult psychologically or has he/she just changed their mind? One of the purposes of Boot Camp is to weed out those that are not capable of serving in this capacity. “Changing your mind” is quite a different issue and a commitment termination probably would not be allowed. That is why it is essential that the decision to enter into the military is an informed and prayerfully considered one.
What happens after graduation from Boot Camp?
The service member continues to train in the designated field in which the military needs them to function. All receive the basic training to become general military personal. They receive further training to perform one of the functions necessary for the military to operate as prescribed by the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense. They receive much more freedom to make decisions involving leisure activities after boot camp as well.
Does my daughter have any choice as to where she is stationed after Boot Camp?
She will be stationed where the training for the assigned Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is conducted. During the course of training, she will be solicited to submit new duty station preferences. Notice I used the term “preference”. That is exactly what it is. The military will assign personnel as needed to units and locations so that units remain in a mission capable status. That means at least at minimum strength requirements to conduct any mission assigned. Whenever possible, totally up to the monitor, the requested are granted for preference.
I know they have no privileges or free time during Boot Camp, but what about after they have finished?
Privileges and free time are allowed as training dictates. After boot camp and the initial MOS training, military personal end up with much, much more free time. Your young adult may need your constructive suggestions on how to occupy that time.
Is being in the military really like having job? Do you have a regular work schedule and work 40 hours a week?
Some MOS’s in the military are very much patterned like civilian jobs with common work schedules. Others are anything but common. Remember, defending our nation is a 24 hour, seven day a week job. Work schedules of our service members will always reflect that.
What happens if my son does not like the specialty area that he has chosen?
There are opportunities to do a lateral move (train in another MOS). Usually, to do this he will have to complete a certain period of time doing the current MOS and may be required to extend the current enlistment or reenlist to receive training in a new MOS. This is also based on the needs of the military. If he chose a field in the military that was in critical short supply, his chance of making a lateral move would be boosted. If he is already in a critically short field, however, then a request for a lateral move may be denied because the military needs them to function in their current field.
After Boot Camp how often can my daughter come home? Is she allowed to have a car on base?
From the day your daughter entered boot camp she started earning leave time. Leave is granted by her command like it would be by any employer. As long as she has accrued the leave time and there is no pressing reason for her leave to be denied, it will be granted. Remember though, the needs of the command always come first.
In answer to the second part of this question, yes, she may have a car on base. The base has certain requirements for registering a vehicle on base. The local base Security Office maintains a list of the requirements for that base. Keep in mind, that many young military personal do not have personal transportation, therefore the person with the ride becomes a popular person.
May enlisted personnel carry a cell phone?
Off duty – yes, on duty (in uniform), sometimes no. Some duty assignments may have regulations or duty requirements that allow or require them to carry cell phones.
How do I find out if there are any WELS services offered in the area at which my son is stationed?
The WELS has a network of Military Contact Pastors (MCP’s) that are listed online. These pastors are congregational pastors nearest to military installations in the U.S. Contact the nearest MCP to where your child is stationed and he will make contact with your child about services available. Once you have the information pass it on to both your child and the pastor from your home congregation. If all these people are armed with the information on the closest worship services, it is more likely that action will take place to provide for that service member.
My son entered the military right after graduating from high school. He has just completed boot camp and now reporting for his first assignment. I understand he will be given regular time off and I am concerned about his welfare. He is naive to many of the ways of the world. What should I warn him about?
There will be several temptations to which your son will be exposed: the proper use of time; good stewardship of his money; the use or abuse of alcohol. You may wish to remind your son about the many years of Christian training which he has received in your home, and the values which he has been taught. Assure him of your prayers that God will bless him with good judgment. The superiors in his chain of command will reinforce your encouragement by reminding your son of their expectations for conduct and to be “smart” in the decisions your son will face.
Is drinking of alcoholic beverages allowed on base even if he is underage?
No. Under aged drinking is against regulations on or off base. With that stated, alcohol may be purchased on the base by personnel who are of legal age. Alcohol may also be brought onto the base from off-site locations. Off-site establishments may be more of a temptation since many will not ask military personnel for proof that they are of legal age. Superiors in the chain of command warn the personnel in their charge to be smart and careful and to use common sense.
My daughter feels a lot of peer pressure to go out with her military friends to places she would not normally go. What advice can I give her?
As in any station in life, your daughter will not only need to use Christian judgment in her actions, but also in her selection of friends. If these individuals are a negative influence, it may be time for your daughter to associate with someone else. Avoiding these temptations will allow your daughter to “let her light shine” and be a Christian witness.
With military bases having a predominately male population, how protected will my daughter be?
Sexual harassment training has come along way in the military. However, as you have seen in the news, there is still a problem. The best advise is to tell your daughter to immediately report any incidents to her superiors so they may be dealt with appropriately and to avoid (as best she can) placing herself in situations and places where such incidents are more likely to occur.
This is the first time my daughter has had a regular income. How can I advise her not to spend her money foolishly but not look as though I am interfering?
This is a serious temptation shared by many military personnel. You have likely raised your daughter with lessons in wise spending and good stewardship. Reinforce those teachings and encourage your daughter to put some or much of every check into a savings or interest bearing vehicle.
If my son is injured or becomes ill, will the military notify me?
If your son becomes ill (e.g., has the flu, etc.), the military will not likely contact you. If your son is in a location in which you and he can communicate, you will likely need to learn about his illness from him during one of your opportunities for communication.
In the event of an injury, if it is of a severe nature, the military or a representative service of the military will notify you of the situation.
We trust our family doctors. If medical care is needed, can our son choose to seek medical assistance with them?
Not usually, the military maintains its own providers and practitioners on the base who will provide medical care as necessary. If however, your child needs a procedure that the military facility does not have the specialist to perform, they will allow him to select/or select for him a contract civilian doctor.