He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every little selfish political there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. It will take him time, I know, but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to lose and also enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy, if you can. Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him to learn that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.

In school teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with the gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men but teach him to filter all on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him that there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to the howling mob, and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

Teach him gently, but do not cuddle him because only the test of time makes fine steel…. let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to always have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a tall order, but see what you can do …… he is such a fine little fellow, my son.

A SOLDIER’S PRAYER FOR HIS SON By General Douglas Macarthur:

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, and who will be proud in defeat, humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes not take place of deeds, a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the spur of difficulties and challenges. Let him stand up to the storm; let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who masters himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forgets the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough sense of humor so that he may always be serious yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, the simplicity of true greatness , the open mind of true wisdom and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper “I have not lived in vain”


Give me a son, O lord, whom I can raise in comfort and luxury, giving him all the good things that were not my lot as a child. Make him of sound body and limb so that he can qualify for a military academy. Let him, O Lord, have a smooth sailing on his cadet years and let him be awarded the coveted Sword of Honour even if he does not deserve it, after which let me keep him in the comfort of my home as my aide de camp. Let him, O Lord, have a good time in his courses, and let him have the choicest postings far removed from hot spots and hard areas. And throw in, for good measure, a long and lucrative deputation abroad. Give me the connections, O Lord, to get him inducted into a choice civil career on the military quota at the first opportunity, and throw in a moneyed bride, if You will. Then, O Lord, I will proclaim from the rooftops, “I have not lived in vain”.

Finally a few words which might help our fine young officers to become yet better leaders; Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery to the effect” the honour and welfare of your country come first and foremost each and every time. The welfare of your men comes second. Your own comfort and welfare come last each and every time”. General Colin Powell, in his biography which I read some years ago, he gives several tips to newly commissioned officers of the US Army. One which particularly appealed to me was, “Officers eat last” meaning that the officers must ensure that their men are fed first and don’t forget the motto of Infantry School, “Follow Me”! nor the old saying, “lead by example, not by precept”


The writer is a retired brigadier. He is the only retired officer to have been allowed to go parachuting with PMA and PAF cadets. He made his 44th jump at the age of 66, including 11 jumps after his 60th birthday. He was an engineer and pilot who served in Army Aviation for twenty years.