Words For Warriors is a collaborative project that was born one afternoon when I sat down to read a book and came across a passage that stopped me cold. I sat there for a minute and then headed across the room to my computer to compose the following piece.
To Our Warriors
Tuesday afternoon, I had finished my workout, completed a project and run errands. I happily sat down in my comfy chair to read for a few moments. I picked up my new book The Trident by Jason Redman (with John R. Bruning) and proceeded to read contentedly along until I hit a brick wall. Not an actual wall of course, a wall of words but it hurt like hitting a wall might.
Jason Redman was describing an experience he and his wife had when traveling back and forth across the country for his medical care. Jason had been severely wounded in battle. He suffered damage to his face among other injuries. He wrote
Erica was right. I needed to lighten up. The rest of the trip, I attempted to make small talk with those around us, only to discover that most folks assumed I’d been in a car wreck or some sort of accident. We’d been at war for six years, and not a single person considered that these grievous wounds could have been inflicted on the battlefields as we fought to preserve their freedom.
Iraq, Afghanistan — they barely touched those here at home enjoying the prosperity and peace of a successful nation not ravaged by war. This wasn’t the full national effort of World War II; the onus of this war fell on the strong but narrow shoulders of the volunteers who chose to defend the nation. And their families. The small talk I tried to make ended up affecting me deeply. What value was the sacrifice so many of my brothers had made if the people for whom they gave their last full measure were not even aware of their devotion? It was a troubling question, one that I dwelled on many times in the months ahead. (Pages 332-333)
I shut the book, put it down in my lap and thought. I could feel words welling up as they sometimes do, clamoring over each other demanding release. It’s on those occasions I HAVE to write, I have to somehow offer a response, to speak back. Yes, odd though it is there are times I write to people who I don’t know and who will never read my words. I composed an open letter inspired by Jason’s passage, intended for all of those out there who “guard the perimeter.”
I have never seen you face to face but I see you nevertheless. I feel you. I know you’re there. You live in my thoughts, you animate my prayers and rest assured, there are many more just like me. In your darkest hours, in the glow of your greatest victories, you are never alone.
It is true that there are many who enjoy the fruits of your labor, who do not understand your work, who never stop to think about or appreciate you. Isn’t it ironic that the peace you’ve won with diligent effort, the freedoms and liberties you’ve protected with sweat and blood are precisely the things that separate you from their consideration? You see, when you have been shielded by men with steady hearts and fierce attention, when you have been so consistently relieved from the wolf at the door that you don’t even know wolves exist then you are released to live without any thought of how your environment came to be…or who brought it to bear.
Even so, there are others, like me, who do think about it. Others, outside of your own families, friends, teams and groups who do know. We have tremendous appreciation for you. We think about the skill you display, we admire the focus you bring to your training and we are awestruck by the willing spirit that lets you stand toe to toe with the most loathsome evils the world can produce and snatch victories out of the clutches of darkness. We also know that it comes with a price, a daunting price, one that you’ve proven over and over again that you (and your brothers) are willing to pay.
I wish that we had a better way to convey our understanding and feeling of kinship with you. Words seem so very thin. Perhaps if I were able to gather “gratitude” in every language, melt it all together and fashion a new, better, more robust utterance it would mean what it should. As it is I am relegated to the words I have at hand.
What you do is not obscured from all of us. Some of us see and we are more in number than you know.
With love and respect,
Even after putting my thoughts down on paper I kept fretting. I thought about a Marine who shared my interest in fitness, with whom I used to write back and forth on a bodybuilding site. He had a tagline that read “The Marines are at war, America is at the mall.” It’s been many years since we’ve communicated but I’ll never forget him or that tagline. A few words can have such a lasting impression. His tagline and Jason Redman’s passage proved that. It occurred to me that if their words could have that effect on me, then maybe ours might be able to make a similar, powerful impression on them (or their fellow warriors). This project gives us a chance to speak back, to bolster, to inspire, to encourage and support those who give so much.