June 2003, my sister Becci and my father “pin’ing” me

Today, 10 November 2011, is the perfect day to post this letter my father wrote me 10 years ago.  What obstacles did you have to overcome to become a Marine? or to accomplish something that others told you you couldn’t?   I’ll post an in-depth, explanative blog tomorrow and I do hope you’ll return to read it. Today, I just wanted this to sink in.

Dear Sarah                                                                                                     Sept 4, 2001
A few things I’d like for you to think about:
1.The USMC Major says you need a current PFT.  Can you do that in your condition?  There’s a difference, right? 
2. Does a flight contract guarantee pilot or just any type of flying job? 
3. I wouldn’t stir up any more with the AFROTC than necessary before you know this is what you are going to do.  That is, will USMC pay and is that important to you?  PFT? 
4. I remind you of what you said to me about the enlisted airmen you met at Shaw vs those Marines you met at Henderson Hall…These are the type of folks you have to get to do the job when you become their officer boss.  It may not seem so big now, but it will be your life as a manager, flyer, etc. 
5.  You must plan for what happens when you are not flying.  Even if you get a slot, then pass all, all, phases of the training, you will eventually be given other duty.  What will that be?  Where will it be?  What does each service have to offer that interests you for these other duties?  The USMC is about ground attack, you will never lead troops in a ground attack (thank God) and that will limit you whether you believe it or not. 
6. I know peer influence is far greater than parental influence, but I have been through many years of military service.  I’ve been around all the services.  I take the Air Force hands down, and I want only the best for you.  I will never say I agree with you becoming a Marine.  I KNOW the Air Force is a better, more rewarding life.  You can believe all you want that you can make it in the macho world of the Marines, that you can make them accept you…You will never be a man, you will never be as mean, nasty, tough, strong, etc.  The Marines are built on that concept for a reason.  It does not matter what they say to be politically correct.  They have to believe they are meaner, nastier, and tougher than the enemy bastard whose throat they have to slit on a dark night.  We need people like that.  Maybe you can do that, maybe you want to do that, but no high school dropout, weighing 210 pounds with an IQ of 90 is ever going to believe that.  I’m sorry if this sounds cruel or perhaps wrong to you, but I know it is true.  Should you have the right to prove yourself?  Yes.  Will you? I doubt it.  PFTs are not Iwo Jima’s beach where you have a 60lb pack on your back, the water is chest high, the surf is pounding in your face, bullets are whistling around you head, mortars are blowing your unit into hamburger, and you have to turn and say “follow me.”  I know you want to fly and all this death and destruction is far less personal, unless of course you are shot down and taken prisoner (if you survive the crash).  Hopefully you will never have to fight a war, but you are joining (either AF or USMC) to do that if called upon.  It’s about believing you are right so much that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to win.  To kill someone else face-to-face or with a bomb.  Decide you can do it.  Decide you convince others to do it. 
7. About flying.  I know from first-hand experience that just wanting to be a pilot isn’t enough.   I was smart, I was tough, I had more desire than most, but I didn’t have enough of whatever to make it.  I wasn’t a bad person or a failure because of it, but I had to find a different job.  So don’t ignore this.  I’m not trying to jinx you, but you are not being fair to yourself if you don’t think about the options. 
8.  Also, remember landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most challenging things in the business.  Perhaps you can do it, but you are raising the odds of failure.  (This is about technical analysis of a career, not rah rah, bust your ass, you can do it.) 
 9. Yes, you will always be my daughter and I will always love you.  I will accept your decision, but I will never tell you that the Marines are better for you than the Air Force.  It’s more than the fact that I was in the Air Force, too.  I have no doubt the Air Force will be everything you are seeking in the military, and more.  You will meet quality people, you will lead enlisted people who are brighter and more enlightened.  You will have greater variety of jobs, respected jobs, from which to choose.  You will travel; you will have one remote tour in a career (maybe), not sea duty every 4 or 5 years.  You will have command opportunities in and out of airplanes.  You will have something of an uphill fight in any service because you are a woman.  Don’t kid yourself.  It isn’t right but it is true.  You will be a minority.  People will respect you for your intelligence more in the Air Force. 
Well, I have to go and you probably got pissed at this letter long ago.  I hope this isn’t too late.  I want you to stay in the Air Force. 
I love you.  Dad