Dear Younger Emily,
I sit and write this letter 11 years after you joined the Army. Looking back, you were scared, nervous and unaware of how this journey would bend, stretch and change you in ways you never imagined.
Joining the Army has been one of your best decisions to date, and these experiences will affect you the rest of your life.
The challenges you will face in the Army will only make you mentally, physically and emotionally stronger. You will experience disappointment, but you will adapt and overcome.
You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them and be able to face future obstacles with a renewed strength. You will even question your purpose in life, but over the years you will gain new insight into your purpose. These feelings will linger even after you leave the service, but the experiences you have will continue to shape your attitude and your actions as time progresses.
This journey will take you across the ocean to unknown lands. During your time in Iraq, you will come to know people whose views and outlook on life are totally foreign to anything you have ever experienced, and it will change your own self-awareness.
You will gain confidence you never knew existed by challenging yourself and creating new personal limits.
The best advice I can give you for the future is: First, one of the biggest takeaways from the Army is that you will learn that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be.
Second, have faith in yourself and your abilities. You are much more capable than you give yourself credit for.
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself; being tough doesn’t necessarily mean success. Being hard on yourself really only hurts you and brings you down.
People’s opinions are different than your opinion of yourself so allow their perceptions to lift you up.
It will be an amazing journey. But in present day, you will continue to work with those who served. The Army will teach you to keep striving to better yourself. Always keep learning. The most humble of people can teach us something.
And remember, no matter how hard life seems at times, you can always lend a helping hand to someone else.