An Open Letter to the Kid Who Wants to Go to War in Ukraine

What I would say as an Iraq War Veteran to my fictional 18-year old nephew who wants to join the Military and go to war in Ukraine

Matt Gangloff
4 min readFeb 25, 2022


Photo by Owen Michael Grech on Unsplash

Dear Joe,

Your Dad told me that you were thinking about joining the Army and he asked if I’d talk to you about that. I’m sure he doesn’t want you to go but I’m not here to talk you out of it. Frankly, I don’t know if you should or if you shouldn’t. I only know what will happen if you do.

But before I go there, I want to tell you something: I’m proud of you.

There’s something about the spirit of a man that would stand up to fight. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t know what to say about it. But the fact that you’d even consider it is something special, kid.

People are gonna tell you that this war is bullshit, it’s just the rich sending the poor to fight each other, it’s not our fight and, hell, maybe they’re right. But that doesn’t change what’s inside you.

I’m proud as hell of the man you’ve become and that won’t change whether you enlist or not.

But I have to tell you, brother, the thought of you going off to war brings up some shit in me. Some of it’s pride. Some of it’s jealousy — wishing I could go with you, but I’m too damn old now.

And a lot of it is fear. I’m scared for you, buddy.

I’m not worried about you getting killed, so much. I don’t know why. It would destroy your mom and your dad and me too but getting killed is just one of those things that happens or doesn’t happen and there ain’t much sense worrying about it till then.

I’m more worried about what happens after.

War changes you.

It turns you dead behind the eyes. And I know that it sounded romantic when you sat on the edge of that cooler in the garage while your Dad and I told the same old war stories over and over again.

I imagine you want some of your own stories. And you probably wanna make a friend like I did with your Dad. And that part’s true — what they say about making friends in the military. There’s…



Matt Gangloff

I teach the how-to’s of Post-Traumatic Growth: How to heal and grow, find a new mission, become your best self and build a meaningful life.