J. Marshall Jenkins

Author, Therapist, Spiritual Director

Airman Philip M. Jenkins: The Thing That Makes His Father Proud

Airman Philip M. Jenkins on Graduation Day from Air Force Basic Training, November 10, 2017.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

On November 9-10, 2017, I attended final ceremonies to mark the successful completion of basic training by 662 young men and women at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. One of them, my son, Philip Marshall Jenkins, played the trumpet among the 321st Training Squadron Warthogs.

Before the airmen’s run on the chilly morning of the 9th, a sergeant told the crowd of family members not to fret if we don’t see our child because, “We all look alike here.” They dressed the same, marched the same, sang yodies in sync, and wore the same sober, focused facial expression.  The young men were bald, and the young women wore their hair up in tight buns. His mother, girlfriend, and I recognized Philip nevertheless because he is a longer string bean than most.

They should look the same, of course, because the grueling physical challenges, niggling attention to details, long marches, and enforced tedium wrest their young egos away. They learn to identify with the squadron, the Air Force, and the whole military above their own fledgling identities. Basic training is, in a word, a school of humility.

Airman Philip M. Jenkins in Airmen’s Run, November 9, 2017.

We moderns forget another school of humility that shaped our culture and outlook more than we realize: the monastery. Christian monasteries overcame early instability and unruliness with the adoption of The Rule of St. Benedict in the 6th Century. The Rule’s seventh chapter on humility is a classic within the classic. It teaches stages in the development of humility such as awareness of God’s attention at all times, obedience to the abbot (spiritual leader), confession of sins, willingness to live with poverty, discomforts, and even unfairness, controlling the tongue, and keeping a dignified, gentle demeanor.

Except perhaps for the gentle part, it sounds a lot like basic training.

I am exceedingly proud of my son for his accomplishment. That pride swelled in my heart not during the ceremonies as much as in a conversation at lunch. We ate at a food court on the base, and as he described his life in the dorm under the watchful eye of the Military Training Instructor (MTI), he mentioned that he not only felt the heat from the MTI for his mistakes but for those of others as well.

This sounded like he did a little more than blend in.

A few moments later as we walked out of the mini-mall, another new airman walked with his family toward the food court, and he and Philip greeted with warm, mischievous grins. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw the airman smile at his parents as he said, “Jenkins is our dorm chief.”

So I asked Philip what that meant. He answered, “When guys get tired and unruly, I tell them we came here to make it in the Air Force, so we’d better pull together. That’s just important to me. And they come to their senses.”

Then he resumed talking like an 18 year old as his girlfriend, Maddie, giggled.

A humble airman with his proud father.

I’m very proud of him for rising to the role of dorm chief, yes, but more so for the humility with which he almost didn’t tell us. I’m not sure he realizes that he is a leader. The humble do not get to be proud of their humility, but their fathers do. And I am.


Thanks to Philip’s mother, Sharon Bassett Jenkins, for the excellent photographs.

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J. Marshall Jenkins

About J. Marshall Jenkins

J. Marshall Jenkins is an author, psychotherapist, teacher, and spiritual director. For several years he has been writing on the Beatitudes for people in emotional pain, publishing biweekly here on his Beatitudes Blog at http://www.jmarshalljenkins.com. His newest book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Hope with the Beatitudes, is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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28 Replies

  1. Teresa Czekalla

    I know you are so proud of Philip! He does appear to be so humble….what a wonderful trait:) He will do well, and he looks great as an airman!! May God be with Philip always, wherever he may go, and keep him safe!

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Thanks, Teresa. I too pray that as Philip lives his dream for his life, he will live into God’s dream for his life.

  2. Cinda McGuinn

    I remember when my brother Jim was inducted (is that the right word) into the Air Force. It was a proud time for the whole family. I was terrified for him when he was flying F4s in Viet Nam but he came home safely. I wish the best for your dear son.

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Proud and scary. Both very apt terms. I’m certainly glad your brother came home safely. What a perilous mission!

  3. Carine

    Wow, a beautiful and humble son is indeed worthy of his father’s pride! He is also a reflection of caring parents, congratulations 🎉 to you both!

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Thank you, Carine. He’s his own man, but he picked up from his mother and me a desire to serve and be faithful.

  4. Ruth

    I love this! You have every right to be proud! Thank you for sharing this special time with us.

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Glad you could be part of it through this post. Maybe someday amid his travels we can get Philip to Lumberton to meet special folks like you.

  5. Michael Parnell

    Your son joins the ranks of other heroes as he goes to serve not only his country, but us as citizens.

    I am grateful for his contributions to the cause of defending our nation.

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Thanks, Mike. It’s definitely a calling for him.

  6. True blessings!!
    Thank you for sharing

  7. Thank you, Marshall. You captured it beautifully.

    1. Thanks for all the love and support Roger and you have given to Philip and his family over the years!

  8. Thanks for all the loving care you gave him when he was just a baby!

  9. Sounds like a very fine young man. I can see why you are so proud.

    1. He is a fine fellow, and he’s pursuing his dream. I’m proud of him for that too.

  10. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations to Phillip. I know yuu are proud. Our children are our greatest accomplishments.

    1. This is his dream, and I’m proud of him for putting his all into it. He has a heart for service.

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