Letters from home meant the world to U.S. Air Force airman from Steamboat Springs during rigorous basic training in Texas
Steamboat Springs — Hot and sweaty and unable to shower every day this summer in the sweltering heat at an Air Force base in central Texas, Joshua Heald looked forward to the constant stream of handwritten letters from his parents.
Luckily for Joshua, his mother had resolved to write him every single day he was in basic training.
The letters contained news from his hometown of Steamboat Springs, inspirational quotes from former generals like George Patton and photos from his older sister’s wedding that Heald had to miss because of his military service.
“It was the greatest feeling in the world to hear your name called for a letter,” Joshua, now an Airman First Class for the U.S. Air Force, said Monday from his home in Steamboat. “The letters were the highlight of every single week.”
In the summer, Joshua, a 2014 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, arrived in San Antonio to start his two months of basic military training.
His phone was confiscated, and he was given an initial two-minute phone call to give his parents his mailing address.
In a world without Skype and Facebook and where more than 100 airmen had just 45 minutes a day to use a single pay phone to call home, the letters became important.
The letters were so valuable, Joshua said he and other Air Force members would hide them under their pillows, sneak out of their bunks at 2 a.m. and into a bathroom stall to read them over and over.
They were an escape from the 100-degree heat and the demanding routines of the day.
“We didn’t get a lot of personal time to ourselves,” Joshua said. “In basic training, you’re living with 60 other guys in the same room, and you’re a foot away from the closest guy. Getting those letters meant so much.”
The letters also led to a new business venture for Carlene.
Carlene learned and gained so much from her experience of writing almost every single day to her son that she wanted to make it easier for family and friends of other service members to send meaningful letters at a time when electronic communication is sparse or impossible.
“Not having much contact except for old-fashioned letters and cards was difficult in an age where you’re used to texting your child and getting immediate feedback,” Carlene said. “I’m hoping these cards I make will encourage other people and inspire them. I’ve enjoyed creating the cards. It’s great therapy for me.”
Carlene, a longtime special education teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School, was inspired to make the cards because of the difficulty she faced in finding things to write and send to her son every day.
It started with letters, but when news from home was scarce, she turned to other things.
She wrote inspirational quotes from presidents on notecards. And when Joshua requested song lyrics to his favorite tunes, she sent those along.
“The cards just evolved from a need I had to hoping to help meet a need for other family members,” Carlene said.
Around Labor Day, Carlene launched her military cards.
They are sold in packets and contain several different types of cards containing inspirational quotes along with original photography.
There are several cards available to mark Veterans Day.
Today, Carlene has more than 32 designs and is hoping the cards can spread beyond their availability at local stores here in Steamboat to military bases.
They can be sent on special occasions or regularly to family members and friends who are in basic training or on a deployment.
The letters are just one of the many things Carlene has taken away from her experience of watching her son go through basic training in the military.
She now is working to interview several local veterans about their experiences at boot camp and basic training and post their stories to her blog.
The first two are available here.
“Having a child in the military has increased my appreciation for our local veterans,” Carlene said. “Our veterans are such a critical part of our community.”
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