Making a Difference

My Personal and Professional views

Letter to a Son

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

A few months ago I wrote a letter to a dear friend entering the Marines. I have scrubbed it somewhat to protect the innocent but the central meaning remains in tact. If you are sending someone into the military it may be worth a read.

RCT John Doe

MCRD Parris Island, SC,

Dear John,

Are you feeling Semper Fidelis? Has basic met your expectations? Do you feel today the way you felt before enlisting? While you think about that I will tell you what is going on over here.

Last night the Mrs. and I went to see American Sniper. It made me think of you and who I was when I was your age. We now live in very complicated times. Like you I grew up without a Dad and I had a certain affinity for the military, probably from military school. I, like you, felt like I did not have a whole lot of options when I was 18. I felt it was a good thing to support Reagan in his quest to destroy the USSR. I felt I was being patriotic to a degree. I can completely relate to that sort of thinking.

Now I have a much broader perspective. In thinking about all of the atrocities that are taking place in the world I can understand how you or Chris Kyle may want to get involved and help to right some wrongs. What you, or Chris may not see is what is behind it all. What is behind ISIS are a bunch of lunatic power hungry barbarians who have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with taking power and ruling as despots. They come from a place where they did not have a lot of options, they feel that they are either doing the work of Allah (idiots) or they know they are self-interested assholes that are conducting a power-grab. There will be thousands of well intentioned, naïve young men who think they are going off to the crusades for some righteous reason. They will be corrupted or killed or most likely both.

Our soldiers, like theirs are following the belief that they are righting a wrong. We are in the Middle East because Bush and his cronies are deeply buried in Oil and the production and sale of it. We have a long history of allowing Big Business to direct our foreign policies. In this case they made a huge error. Picking a fight with the worlds most populace religion is a no win situation for either side.

So what does this mean to you and me? It has been said that if you are not a liberal as a young man you do not have a heart. If you are not a conservative as an old man, you do not have a wallet. I think you can also say that if you are not willing to fight for a cause as a young man you do not have a heart. If you are willing to fight for a cause without understanding it as an old man you do not have a brain.

I would not fight this fight for the US. We are sending our precious young men either to their death or to their future mental disability. You have read enough war literature to understand that men, and now women, never come back with the soul they left with.

So where is all this going? I want you to be selfish. You get this one chance to write your story. One chance to create the life you ultimately want to lead. I expect you will disagree with me. The Marines are very good at teaching men how to go to war and how to feel good about it. However, I believe you can see through it. I think you can understand they are doing their jobs. They are doing what they need to do to look in the mirror and believe in themselves. It would be hard for you to become a recruiter and agree with me. It would be hard to convince men to make the tough decision if you did not believe in the cause.

We will send men to war. We will bomb the shit out of Isis and Boko Haram and eventually even have boots in the dirt. Do you want to put a bullet in a man who, just like you, is a pawn in a game they have no stake in?

In American Sniper Chris Kyle’s father said there are three types of people: Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs. He would say that Isis is the wolf, the innocents are the Sheep and the Marines, in this case, are the sheep dogs. I think he is missing a critical player. He is missing the Shepherd. In my story the Shepherd is the US government or Isis leadership and the sheep are actually the men and women they are willing to lead to slaughter to get to what they want,

I think that at some point in our lives we need to figure out what part we are playing in the grand scheme of things, whether we are a pawn or a king, a sheep or a Shepherd. I am not confused about my part. For most of my career I have rented my intellect and labor to men who are looking to make a buck and get ahead. Some times we were aligned and I was well rewarded, sometimes I was merely a pawn and I used this experience to move me forward to the next one. Today I am still a pawn but I am receiving fair compensation and I may be able to move to the back of the chessboard and have more control of my destiny and compensation. Even when you are a CEO you have a board of directors. Even when you are a chairman you have investors. Bob Dylan said “Your gonna have to serve somebody.” The question is, do you know whom you are serving and what their real agenda is? Are you walking into the deal with eyes wide open and getting a fair return on your investment?

I cannot imagine too many American men who have come home from battle really feel like they have made the world a better place. You have but one life to give, shouldn’t you give that life to yourself and to the people that you love?

You are embarking on a long journey. It is hard to know when you are standing at the beginning of a long road where that road will take you. You can only see so far and sometimes the road can become dark and foggy. What will ultimately guide you when you come to difficult intersections is understanding what you are ultimately after. Knowing what milestones you want to reach on that road and seeing them clearly. This ability to imagine or simulate the future is what separates the human brain from all others. Your ability to achieve a clear vision is what will separate you from your peers.

I think the Marines can do a great deal for you. What I do not want them to do is to cloud your vision or corrupt your reality. If you look at what you can learn from the marines and how you can apply that knowledge when you leave you will be working toward a better future. Think of your credentials in 8 years. A distinguished career in the marines focused on (pick one) Intelligence, logistics, electronics, public affairs, legal, can lead you directly to an amazing college and professional career.

Can you imagine what a cake-walk college will be after you finish four years of real on the job experience in the Marines? Pick a job that demands that you become a master sergeant or officer and teaches you a skill that is worth something in the real world. Meaning, from where I sit as an older man, the military, while very real, may not be where you want to be 20 years from now. Choose a path that allows you to make the decision that is best for you. Please do not carry a gun and go to war, that is a road that many, even those who come back, never fully recover from.

What I think, and believe today: You must have a passionate heart as a young man. You want to make a difference and you should. You just need to pause and ask if the mission you are on is a fair one to you and to the rest of the world. Is it honest? Do you have a say in where it takes you? Are you a sheep or a shepherd, a pawn or a king?

You are a fine young man with amazing qualities. You are kind, dedicated, witty and intelligent. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Just be mindful enough to truly know what that is, where it will lead you and what it will cost.

I know this may feel or sound a little preachy and I do not mean to do that. I simply wanted to share with you where my head is these days. I listen to and read the news daily. I am convinced things are fucked up and I know that there is little I can do to change it. Instead of diving deep into the morass our country has created I am focused on building a company that can make a positive contribution to the security of the connected world. This company can do well with my help and they can reward me for the effort. I can then take these rewards and create a life for my family that most Americans only see in movies and fairy tales. I want this for my family and friends. I am building a house in Concord that can be off the grid and survive the Zombie apocalypse, next energy crisis, climate change or whatever else the world throws at us. Why? Because I want to. I want to have a place my family can go and feel safe. I will do my part in my job to make the world better but you can be damn sure I am going to be selfish about it. There are a lot of people suffering in this world. If you can do something that makes the world a little better, do no harm, and not be one of the sufferers, well then I think that is a life well lived.

I am confident that you will make the choices that are right for you. Only you should make these choices, take care not to let others make them for you, for when they do they make them not for you but for themselves. Know where you want to go and you will always take the proper turns on that long journey.

I love you John and wish for you all the success that you deserve and will earn for yourself. Never lose faith in who you are or who you can be. Keep moving forward and keep smiling. In the end, the meaning of life is to be happy. The hard part is really knowing what it is that brings you lasting happiness. In summary what I am saying is don’t be a wolf or a sheep-dog, be your own shepherd.

All the best to you and Semper Fi.

Your Friend,



Written by Jim McNiel

July 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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