I learned recently that a co-worker of mine, Steffanie Powers, has a brother, Pfc. Scott Powers, in the U.S. Army Reserves, stationed in Iraq. With her permission, I write this letter to him in recognition of his service to our country.
Steffanie told me about you and that you had been posted to Iraq. She is so proud of you. I've been thinking about you and the other service people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I want you to know that you are a true patriot, someone who is willing to stand in harm's way so that your fellow countrymen can live in peace and freedom. Your courage, character, principle and sacrifice defy easy description.
I myself was in the Army Medical Corps during the Korean War and attained the rank of corporal before being discharged from active duty. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Despite the passage of time, I remember all of it. I can't forget all the soldiers, who came from every part of this nation. It didn't matter what your background was or whether you had gone to college-you were judged only by how good a soldier you were. For me it was a great lesson in what a democracy is all about. So, Scott, you are part of a special group to whom the rest of us owe so much.
Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that beat the Soviet Union squad and went on to win the gold medal, used to say that if you don't try to reach for a seemingly impossible dream, you may spend the rest of your life regretting your decision. So many people are scared of taking chances. They go through life as spectators, watching others go for the gold. I have never wanted to be a spectator. I've always chosen to be on the field of play. You have taken the same path and I commend you for that. You have realized that really living means taking chances. You believe in freedom and discipline and values. You are willing to risk your life for those ideas. And you should know that your sacrifice is appreciated in your homeland.
Recently a good friend of mine who knows how much I admire Winston Churchill gave me a book. The title of the book is Never Give In. The book includes some of the most moving speeches I have read. As you may or may not know, prior to World War II Churchill was considered a warmonger. He believed that the only way to deter a raging, evil monster like Hitler was to meet him head-on with military might, not try to appease him through diplomacy. After Hitler's forces had conquered most of Europe, the only thing standing in the way of world domination were Great Britain and its newly elected prime minister, Winston Churchill. Through his oratory, energy and attitude, Churchill was able to rally his nation to keep Germany from invading his island nation, even when it was besieged by nightly bombings that went on for months on end.
The British endured, and with the entry of the U.S. into the war everything began to change for the better. It was at this time that Churchill chose to go back to Harrow, his old public school, and speak to the student body about the lessons his countrymen had learned. His message was, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
Churchill's speeches were works of art. He anguished over them and sometimes would take hours to write only one or two sentences. But one speech that sticks in my mind was a tribute he wrote to the legendary British soldier and writer T.E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, who marched to a different drummer than his contemporaries. It was Lawrence who, dressed in Arab garb, had masterminded and inspired the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks in World War I. Ultimately, he played a role in creating what is now Iraq. Churchill's description of Lawrence is somewhat analogous to how I view you volunteer patriots of today. Churchill wrote, "The world naturally looks with some awe upon a man who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension that there is someone outside its jurisdiction; someone before whom its allurements may be spread in vain; someone strangely enfranchised, untamed, untrammeled by convention, moving independently of ordinary currents of human action; a being readily capable of violent revolt or supreme sacrifice; a man, solitary, austere, to whom existence is no more than duty, yet a duty to be faithfully discharged. He was indeed a dweller upon the mountaintops where the air is cold, crisp and rarefied, and where the view on clear days commands all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of men."
Some of these words I believe describe you and your fellow soldiers. My son served in the Marines during the 1980s, and many of the friends he made there are still his friends. You'll never meet a greater bunch of people than you do in the military and many of your buddies will be your friends long after you leave active duty.
Stay safe, soldier,