Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: <i>A letter to my son</i> .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A letter to my son

Today my son enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. The following is an open letter to him and others like him who have recently chosen this path to their future:

Dear Son,

You've entered adulthood at a difficult time. Opportunities are not as prevalent as they were when I was your age. Back then, an honest, hardworking person could enter the workforce with little more than good health and a desire to succeed, and rise to a position of responsibility through hard work, a little understanding of human nature, and a good moral compass.

Your generation has it a little tougher. Good careers require degrees, and college is expensive these days. Unless you know exactly what you want to be, a lot of money will be spent that may not help in the life you choose. And with the sad state of the economy and the greed epidemic, even a Masters Degree doesn't guarantee success.

I know that we haven't always seen eye to eye. Sometimes I think you're immature and self-centered, and sometimes you think I'm ignorant and bull-headed. Sometimes we're both right, sometimes neither of us is.

When you told us that you had enlisted in the Marines, your Mother and I felt a mixture of pride and fear. Pride because you've chosen an honorable path that can get you far in life. Fear because American soldiers are dying every day in hostilities around the world, and it appears that trend will continue into the foreseeable future.

Granted, it's a small percentage. At today's rate, 99% of the soldiers currently in Iraq will return home alive. But that doesn't make it any less painful for the families of the 1% who won't come home.

You've chosen to put your life on the line for something you believe in. You've chosen to set aside your personal freedoms for a chance at a better life. You've chosen to become something you can be proud of, and in the process become someone others will be proud of as well. I know I will.

The path you've chosen leads through danger, yet it also leads through honor. In serving your country, you're showing a selflessness that demonstrates to the world that you hold some things in higher regard than your own comfort and safety. That you have made a commitment to help others without expecting reward. For that alone, you have already made the world a better place, which is all I ever hoped you would achieve.

The Marines will provide you with life skills that will help you succeed not only during your term of service, but for the rest of your life. They will condition you, both mentally and physically, to persevere in the face of adversity, and to endure hardship and discomfort in order to prevail. They will teach you self discipline, survival skills, and how to fold your clothes. For that matter, they'll teach you how to walk, talk and eat in whole new ways.

Actually, "teach" isn't the appropriate word. They will "mold" you, just as some of your favorite teachers molded you into the person that you are today. Although I can pretty much guarantee that you won't think of any of your instructors as "favorite teachers".

So as you begin this new life you've chosen, please always remember certain things. Be honest and work hard. Write to your Mother as often as you can. Always keep your moral compass handy, and don't do things you know are wrong, no matter what others do. And if your path takes you to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or North Korea - keep your head down.

Semper Fi. We love you and will be praying for you.

Love, Dad

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