An Open Letter To My Cousin Who Just Joined the Navy

Dear cuz,

I want to start off by saying how proud I am of you. I know it’s been a somewhat long journey to get to this point, but I’m so happy you’ve found a profession that suits you. You were shipped off to basic last week (no pun intended) and you looked so excited in your photos.

My initial reaction when mom and dad told me you joined the Navy was, “What’s a guy from the middle-of-nowhere Indiana doing in the Navy?” As I thought about it more, I realized it made a lot of sense. Most of my memories growing up with you involve swimming and being in/near water.

You’ll also get to travel all over the world; something you probably wouldn’t have been able to do if you stayed in Indiana at another job. I have to admit I’m jealous of that aspect.

I know you’re hoping to join the SEALs and I hope you get in. I know how passionate you are and how hard you work, and I’m sure you will be able to accomplish everything you want and more while serving our country.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t concerned.

Even though I’ve heard the word “bomb squad” thrown around with your name a few times, that’s not what I’m most worried about.

I’m concerned about your mental health.

You’ve never had any problems with it before, but you’re about to experience so many things – good and bad – that could potentially lead to a disease down the road.

If you start to feel overwhelmed or depressed, please talk to someone about it. There are so many resources available. I know there can be a stigma associated with admitting you’re depressed or have PTSD, but it is so important to tell someone if you begin to feel this way.

And besides, screw stigma.

I also understand it can be scary to admit these things in the military. It could potentially set you back in your career. What if they discharge you? That would suck, obviously. But you would be coming home to a loving family ready to put in the time and effort needed to help you through the challenges.

You work so incredibly hard to maintain a strong physique, so please make sure you’re taking care of your mental health as well. Do something every day to maintain it.

The fact of the matter is, around 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

I only have two first cousins. I don’t want to lose one to suicide, especially since I work in the mental health field and know how to prevent it.

I will never be able to understand everything you’re about to go through, but I will be there if you need someone to talk to if times get hard. I hope they don’t. But I thought you should know, just in case.

Best of luck and thank you.

Your little cousin


Photo: Lonnie Bradley |


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