ADVICE FOR A NEW SOLDIER
My daughter’s fiancé will swear into the Army this morning and fly off to Fort Benning for basic training.
He will learn how to be a soldier, and they will marry in the fall, and together they will go off into life.
It is a time of wonder and change. A border crossing between here and there, then and now, child and adult.
And here is some advice.
Have faith – in yourself, in the future, in God.
You can do it, things will get better, God will never abandon you.
Believe that nothing is too hard for you, that impossible is impossible, that you are as capable as any person who has gone before. In a world that wants to make you doubt yourself, never do so. Be humble, but be certain. Know that you can do it, and that your effort will make it possible.
Know that the future – whether five minutes from now, or six months or 10 years – will be better, and that all you have to do is push through and get there. The trials of today are typically just that – the trials of today. There is no storm which has ever raged which has not eventually passed. The darkness of the night will be forgotten by the man who endures to the day.
Hardships – be they basic training or a bad boss or no money or a hard deployment – are endurable if you have faith in the future.
And in the God who can shepherd you now and in the future. He is the hope of the hopeless, the friend of the frightened, the strength of the strong. He knows you, he hears you, he guides you. You must believe that he is there, that he wants to help you, and that he loves you with all his heart.
You must be a Christian soldier.
For yourself, your mission, and for others.
Pray every day. Have a time, at the start and end of the day, when you speak directly to him, with your voice or with your thoughts, to thank him for what he has given you and to ask him for what you need. To get you through, to make you strong, to bless those around you and those far away. To give you the ability to do what needs to be done, for him or for you.
Pour out your heart to him, and you will never be alone.
Stay in touch with him through the day, in quick messages of gratitude and request. When an answer seems unclear, when anger seems all around, when uncertainty clouds or temptation flares.
And read the scriptures every day.
Even when there is no moment to yourself, no chance to quietly sit and read, no book to open and peruse.
On those days, have a verse memorized, buried in your mind, and say it to yourself, and think it over, even if you have done so a thousand times before.
Here are a couple that may serve that purpose: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” and “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Say them over and over, be able to say them without reading them, and review them sometimes. If you can’t get to the scriptures, carry some in your heart.
And live right.
Don’t smoke, drink, swear, lie or run around. Be kind to people, be helpful, don’t get angry. Live your religion and be an example.
And know that the men around you may not always be as strong as you are – in body, mind or spirit. Bring them along, lift their spirits, teach them and encourage them. They, too, are far from home and they may be frightened and unsure of themselves or what to do. In basic, or on a battlefield, or in a business deal, be a buddy.
And be the best.
Recognize that the best you can be is brought out by competing against the best that others can be. And never settle for anything less than the best that you can be. You can shoot expert, you can max the PT test, you can know and demonstrate all your soldier skills with excellence.
Reach high, and then reach higher. Somebody’s got to be the best, and somebody’s got to be better than that, and there’s no reason that that somebody can’t be you. You didn’t come to this life to fit in, you came to this life to stand out.
Pay attention in your military training to lessons that will bless you all through your life. Be in the right place at the right time, pay attention to detail, accomplish your mission, never leave anybody behind. Train to be a soldier, but also train to be a citizen and a man.
Watch your money, and don’t go into debt.
Almost nothing is worth borrowing money over. From every paycheck, before you pay a single bill, put aside a little bit for the Lord and put aside a little bit for yourself – save something, no matter how little you make – and then live within your means. You will want many things, you will need almost none of them, the wise man knows the difference and doesn’t throw away his money on things he wants.
Save for a car, don’t borrow for it. Save for emergencies, don’t borrow for them.
Start a nest egg and keep adding to it.
And be who you are. An ever-better you, always growing and learning and being polished into the man you want to be. But be who you are. Don’t let an environment define you or twist you to its ends.
And never quit.
Never quit, never quit, never quit.
Persist and prevail. Persist means don’t quit, prevail means win. If you don’t quit, you will win.
Most often, life’s trials are really just tests of your determination, and if you can push through and endure what would for some be a breaking point. Any journey can be achieved if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Life has a simple set of priorities: God, family, country.
Notice “self” doesn’t make the list. That’s because when you stand for those other three, “self” will come out OK, too. Also, we aren’t truly here for ourselves. We are here to be useful, to be servants, to build and push and lift.
Which is what you are doing today.
You are raising your hand to the square and swearing to uphold and defend the God-inspired Constitution of the United States of America. Then you are beginning the hard, lifelong work of keeping that oath.
You are a child of God, a free American and a brand-new soldier. Live up to all three and you will do just fine.
God bless you.
And take good care of my daughter.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012