An Open Letter to my Nephew in Basic Training

ImageHi Ethan,

These weeks must not be easy for you.  It is intended to be difficult and perhaps even rough because of the job that lies before you.  You are in the military which carries an organized discipline and regimen to ensure your unison within an organization that prides itself on one mind and one heart. 

It’s ironic (note the correct use of the word) that our society prides itself on individualism in every walk of life but in the military; individualism is not only discouraged it is dismantled.  But it is only intended to be that way for a while.  This is the “formative” time for you.  The military wants the “you” to become “us.”  That part is easy for you because of your age. 

You wish to belong and to be a part of something greater and clearer than you know yourself to be.  But it is still only one stage in life’s many stages.   The military’s glamor is the lure that drew you in.  The necessary work that the military demands occurs through obedience, discipline and self-denial.  (All virtues we are taught to develop on our own and often question throughout life.)

If it helps you, then see life in stages for indeed life is stages.  This is but only one stage on which you perform.  There are many others that will unfold for you as time moves on.

You grew up in a wonderful home with two caring parents.  What a great stage to begin life’s work.  You are now in a stage of preparation for a future you’re not sure of but in which you trust those who will lead you.  Trust them.  Trust them but only for a while.  Strengthen the trust within yourself that your parents gave you.  Trust those with whom you place your trust.  Make sure that they match the trust that you’ve entrusted within yourself. 

What I’m saying is that self-trust is the only worthy trust because then whatever happens, the responsibility falls upon one person and one person only – it’s not the military, it’s not my parents, it’s not this or that – it is me. 

The peace that you feel throughout your life using trust in this way will see you successfully through all of life’s stages.  And I hope and pray that you have many, many life stages to pass through in this wonderful journey we call life.

I trust you because you’ve trusted yourself,

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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