It’s hard to understand what deployment will feel like until you go through it. And, no matter how many times your loved one has been deployed, it likely never gets easier.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Steps for Writing an ‘Open When’ Letter for a Deployed Soldier
- Topic Ideas for an ‘Open When’ Letter for a Deployed Soldier
- Letters for a Deployed Soldier Gift Ideas
- Sample ‘Open When’ Letters for a Soldier
But, with “Open When” letters, you can be there for your soldier whenever they need you. Or, on the flip side, whenever you want to be there for them—it’s likely they’re tough and won’t admit it, after all.
In this post, we provide plenty of “Open When” topic ideas and other bits of inspiration to make your letters and packages personal, meaningful, and special. Though you may be thousands of miles apart from your loved one, you can always stay close in spirit.
If your deployed loved one is a boyfriend, read our list of specific ideas for "open when" letters for a boyfriend.
Steps for Writing an ‘Open When’ Letter for a Deployed Soldier
Like most letters, the steps for writing “Open When” letters are fairly basic. However, you can make them much more meaningful and impactful the more time and thought you put into them. The steps we’ve listed may sound obvious, and it’s important not to overcomplicate the process. Speak from your heart with a clear mind and you can’t go wrong.
Brainstorming the topics of “Open When” letters for your soldier may be the most fun part. You can always scale down your list when you get to the actual writing phase. You may have a few topics that are a bit too similar in terms of how you approach them, for example. Or, of course, you can keep your letters super short and specific. It’s up to you.
The brainstorming phase is also the perfect time to jot down notes or other quick ideas. This will help the writing process go more quickly. And, you’ll have more energy and resources to make the letters extra special with not only the right wording but also additional fun stuff to let your voice shine through. After all, your soldier misses you, so the letters should feel like real conversations.
Writing may come easily to you, or it may not. An important thing to remember is you should just be yourself. Think of the conversations you’d like to have with this person.
What have you really been meaning to tell them? It can be silly or serious stuff. But, that being said, you shouldn’t hold back. Time is precious in every situation, especially with people whose jobs require them to put their safety at risk.
You can write long or short letters, or include a variety. Your loved one will likely spend hours with them, so be sure to put in as much thought and care as you can. If you need more help, check out how to write "Open When" letters.
While your loved one likely won’t care about spelling errors or things of that nature, it’ll make it that much more special if your letters are written with extra care. Take the time to proofread them. Or, you can even type out your letters and reprint them. If you choose to handwrite them and you make a mistake, you can always use white-out or just do another copy.
Proofreading your letters can also ensure that you’re saying everything you need to. You may even think of some other letter ideas to send in the future or with this batch. Proofreading can also allow you to decide if you’d like to add any additional notes, as we discuss in the next step.
4: Embellish and finalize
In the fourth and final step, you can take the extra liberty to embellish your letter. You can even add sticky notes with extra content, stickers, or doodles. Have fun with it. Take the time to decorate the envelope nicely too, and be sure to label each "Open When" letter accordingly.
Furthermore, it may not be a bad idea to enclose each one in a plastic baggy or include some sort of waterproof container. It’ll be easier to keep the letter dry and protected and ready to be enjoyed again and again. If your letters or notes are on the shorter side, you can laminate them or cover them in tape so they’ll be even more durable.
Topic Ideas for an ‘Open When’ Letter for a Deployed Soldier
If you need some general ideas for your “Open When” letters, we’ve provided a solid start below. After all, the point of all these letters is to care for someone who’s far away. You may come up with topics that are entirely unique to the two of you. You know your soldier best and how to best care for them.
1. … you’re feeling lonely
Some people have a hard time adjusting to new places. Even if your loved one enjoys adventure, this may wear off from time to time. An “Open When” letter for when your soldier is feeling lonely can include examples of high points in their life. Remind them of their accomplishments and their strength. Include a joke or two and keep it lighthearted. If faith is important to your soldier, you can also include some prayers or scripture.
2: … you need to laugh
Of course, you can get creative with all of these topic ideas. However, you can get really creative with this one. Feel free to include anecdotes, inside jokes, or even write out some of your favorite quotes from TV and movies. You can also check out this post on ”Open When” you need to smile letters.
3: … you miss me
This topic may be a bit of a given, but it’s a good one to write in a more serious tone. Share your feelings. Be vulnerable. It’s important to share things when you have the opportunity because you simply never know when it’s your last. This isn’t a point to drive home to be negative. On the contrary, having this mindset will help you be more positive, open, and loving toward people who need to hear it most.
Join Cake's monthly newsletter.
Learn all you need to know about end-of-life.
4: … you need encouragement
It’s unlikely that your loved one lacks motivation. However, they may lack belief in themselves from time to time. Everyone does. List out all of your favorite qualities of your loved one. Give examples about when and how they showed up for you. Even reminding them that you believe in them and their abilities can be enough. Here are some more tips on how to write a letter of encouragement.
5: … you’re afraid or sick
Fear, in a way, is a sickness in itself. It can leave you with difficulty moving or even thinking straight. While scary or intense situations are almost guaranteed in the military, it doesn’t hurt to remind your loved one of how strong they are. Someone may know they’re brave, but it’s important to hear it from others. Here are some more tips for what to say when someone’s sick.
6: … on a holiday
Holidays are not only about celebrations and traditions, they’re also very much about who you spend them with. Though your loved one likely has an amazing support system in the military, they likely still miss you and your traditions. Recall some funny or notable memories from your time together and write about these.
7: … on your birthday
Like holidays, birthdays can be difficult when away from friends and family. This is another great opportunity to remind your soldier of how loved they are and everyone they have rooting for them at home.
Letters for a Deployed Soldier Gift Ideas
Though letters are the perfect way to show you care, it’s always nice to include a little extra. You’re taking the time to send your deployed soldier a set of letters, so why not round out the package with some gifts and reminders of home, too. Here are a few general ideas for what to send your loved one.
1. Jerky or veggie chips
Food is fuel. Consider sending your soldier a variety of shelf-stable snacks from home that travel well. After all, they likely won’t have access to the same types of food they’re accustomed to for quite some time. You can include a variety of healthy, vegetarian, or vegan options depending on your loved one’s preferences. Feel free to include some sweets and treats, too, but be advised that they may melt in transport.
2: Instant coffee, tea, or cocoa
Coffee, tea, and cocoa are practical items that provide comfort and energy. They’re easy for your soldier to take with them on the go or store with them in their bunk. Plus, you can easily pack a ton of these items and not have to worry about them taking up space or making the box too heavy. These items also have a great shelf-life and don’t spoil easily.
3: Something to remind them of home
Head up into the attic or storage. Does your loved one have a favorite stuffed animal or memento from their childhood? How about a hobby like baseball or card games? Send something along these lines to give your soldier a taste of home.
They probably miss home (and you and your family and friends) more than you know. This is why it’s also a great idea to send photos with each package. They don’t have to be studio-quality, either. Just sharing small snapshots of your life can make your loved one feel more connected.
In some deployment situations, too, there’s plenty of downtime. So, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send a game, coloring book, or something else that’s easy to pack for entertainment. Your soldier can always share in the fun and bond with their colleagues, too.
4: Comfy sweats or socks
Other great items for downtime and rest are warm, comfortable clothing. Think sweatshirts, sweats, cozy socks, hats, and so on. Though the branch your soldier is in likely supplies plenty of activewear, gear, and swag, it’s nice to have something from home that’s more their style. Here are some more examples of relaxation gifts.
5: Something homemade
Depending on where your soldier is deployed, you may have a challenging time sending homemade baked goods or fragile items, for example. But, you can’t go wrong with art, clothing, trinkets, lucky tokens, or jewelry. All of these things can be shipped easily and your soldier can keep them in their packs. You can even put together a variety of your soldier’s favorite items in a full-blown care package.
Sample ‘Open When’ Letters for a Soldier
The beauty of “Open When” letters is that they can be opened whenever, wherever. You may be on opposite schedules with your soldier and both work long hours, so it may not always be possible to arrange phone or video calls.
Letters allow you to be there for them when they need you most. That may come in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, and it’s really powerful that you can bridge the gap with your words and comfort.
Example letter for a birthday
“Hey, punk. It is your birthday. Kidding, I mean, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY! You know I love you even though you drive me crazy. I miss you more than you’ll ever know. I have no idea what kind of cakes or treats you’re eating over there to celebrate, if anything, but we’re making your mom’s cheesecake here. Sorry, I know that probably makes you bummed that you’re missing it. And, it just means that we’re over here pigging out and putting on weight while you’re probably doing pushups while you’re reading this. Seriously, relax a little if you can! You deserve it. Love you, love you, love you and I can’t wait to be reunited…”
Example for when they’re homesick
“You opened this, so it means you’re feeling homesick. I can’t imagine what it must be like where you are right now. But, I can assure you that I’m right there with you in spirit. I love you so much, and I am so proud to be your [insert]. You make me want to be better. And, when you get back, we’re going to the beach, [restaurant], and watching a [movie or show] marathon… I’ve come up with so many ideas of things for us to do! It’ll take forever to get through my list, but I want you to make one too…”
Example for when they’re missing you
“Hey, sweetheart, I miss you too. More than you miss me, I’m willing to bet. But you know what? You may be far away, but we’re always together. Sappy, I know, but it’s the truth. Love knows no distance or boundaries. I just talked to [name] today, and [he/she/they] is thinking of you, too. I can’t wait to see you so soon. Remember when we went to that boardwalk last Christmas and it started to snow? You looked so beautiful even though we were both freezing…”
Letters Help Show You Care Whenever
Though the nature of the military presents the possibility of deployment and danger, being away from your loved ones is understandably difficult. It can cause you both to be fearful and miss one another. And, of course, the success of any relationship requires trust and support.
This is exactly why these “Open When” letters are perfect. Whenever your soldier needs a little love you can be there, right by their side, through your letters.