Note to Self

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Some Twenty-Five Years Later

Podcast of Blog Post:


Today, it’s a lighter look, as we think about the wisdom that former United States Marine—and Task & Purpose website editor—Carl Forsling shares in “I Wrote a Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self About Joining the Military.”

Mr. Forsling does his best to traverse the time-space continuum with an eye to the most pertinent needs of a late adolescent. Accordingly, how could one go wrong with such aphorisms as:

  1. Don’t waste your money on fancy cars.
  2. Invest in good shoes and a good watch.
  3. For leave, take 30 days and the first flight going somewhere you’ve never heard of.

True, #3 could lead to some challenges, but one is young only once.

He goes on to give the usual sage counsel to the effect of “Listen to your elders (sometimes)” and “Beware of loving too hard, too soon (always),” along with quite military-specific warnings about tattoos that one may sport longer than one might later desire.

Yet for an old civilian such as myself who specializes in reminding combat veterans never to forget that they still have what it takes, it’s good to be reminded that when one is young and straight out of boot camp, one can indeed be so very sure of that got-it/can-do mentality—and yet so unsure as well.

So many decisions have to be made in a military life, even by those not yet legally allowed to drink. Some are hilarious. Some, not so much. Some are quite trivial. Some, quite life-changing, sometimes for ill, sometimes for good.

I turned eighteen about three months after the fall of Saigon. I had just begun my freshman year at Purdue University, a red-brick wonder in the middle of an Indiana cornfield. In a phone booth of the Stewart Center, the student union, I called a number to find out how I should sign up for the Selective Service.

“You don’t have to,” came the answer.

So I didn’t. The military wasn’t on my mind in September, 1975, either in a good way or a bad way. I was more consumed by freshman physics and the fallout from my parent’s divorce. I made a decision that year to switch my major from electrical engineering to psychology.

And forty years later, here I am.

Decisions made, decisions avoided, all take us to today. Some combat veterans rue the day they stepped into military life. Some cannot imagine a life worth living without that day. Some revel in days of memories of the best of Life. Others find themselves mired in those of the most wrenching of Death.

No matter: as Mr. Fosling admits when, at article’s end, he still has to look at those tattoos he once so readily accepted, our time-travelling abilities leave us only with a “now” that either will continue miring us in what might have been or will allow us to move forward in life, still having what it takes to do what needs to be done, whatever “now” is today, whatever it will be tomorrow.

That’s worth a note to self any day.

Until tomorrow, be well,


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