I’m a patriotic person, a proud American.Unfortunately, it sometimes takes certain events to show that we’re all one.Our unity is often suppressed until a crystallizing moment like 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing or when our liberties are being heavily imposed on.It’s in those moments that the best of us rise to defend our country.
Joining the military provides a focused sense of purpose.It gives you a chance to represent something that’s bigger than yourself. You represent something massive…the entire United States.It’s like joining the ultimate super team and striving to be the best of the best on the largest platform one can imagine.
Many civilians envy you because you did something that requires great fortitude.A lot of people don’t have the courage to pursue those type of ambitions.
I want you to know you’re sincerely appreciated.The sacrifice you chose to make particularly during deployments is both notable and commendable.Whatever civilians contributed to the effort stateside pales in comparison to the sacrifice you made in choosing to serve the United States.Thank you.
Reuben Darby and David Jensen have a story that spans over 30 years. Each one of them wrote a letter sharing their perspective on what bound them together, which interestingly, is represented by a piece of equipment…a half pack (backpack) that passed through each of their hands and also the hands of David’s older brother, Alan.
Letter from Reuben Darby
In April 1967 I lost an argument with an enemy mine while on a reconnaissance patrol west of the Chu Lai Tactical Area of Operational Responsibility. To expedite the subsequent medical evacuation, my teammates stripped me of most of my gear, including my pack. I wound up at a series of Stateside hospitals. The pack wound up back in the 1st Force Recon supply system, where it was issued to another Marine: Sergeant Alan Jensen.
Tragically, in October 1967, Sgt. Jensen, as leader of Team Petrify, was one of two killed in action during a firefight lopsided enough to warrant two infantry reaction forces. When Sgt. Jensen’s body was recovered, the pack with my name still printed on it was sent home with other personal effects and ended up in the hands of Alan’s younger brother, David.
David joined the Marine Corps in 1968 and served active and Reserve until 1977. Later, he took the pack on occasional hunting trips and every now and then wondered who the hell Darby was. Then in May 2005, the Sound Off editor published my take on the endless debate over civilian gratitude for Vietnam veterans. David Jensen read the letter, recognized the name and called me, wanting me to have the pack after 38 years.
My construction office is plastered with pictures and mementos of my time in the Marine Corps and tours in Vietnam. That pack is now the centerpiece. Sgt. David Jensen’s actions speak to the special meaning of our brotherhood
Sgt. Reuben Darby, USMC (Ret)
Letter from David Jensen
I joined the Marine Corps in 1968. I think of it as a beginning. I always wanted to be a Marine because of the training and skills to be learned. The experience shaped me for life. My brother, Alan, was a role model. He taught me a lot about the outdoors growing up. When I went in, Nam was getting hot and after losing one son, I’m sure my parents were concerned, however, they were proud Marine Corps parents and were always supportive. The American flag and Marine Corps flag flew from our house daily when I was growing up and it still does now.
When I read the article in Leatherneck (the magazine for Marines) that Darby wrote, I called him. His name was on the pack and I wanted to return it to him. It was pretty cool how it all happened. I ended up making another brother Marine friend.
There’s definitely a strong connection that exists among Marines. There’s nothing more important in a fire fight than the Marine on port and starboard and the ones forward and aft. We fight for each other first. That holds true even when you leave the service in many different ways. You’re never an ex-Marine, always a former Marine. There’s a sense of family and community.
I serve with many Army and Navy veterans along with former Marines in the two veteran groups I volunteer with. There’s a veteran brotherhood alive and well out here. When talking with returning members of the Guard and those departing active duty, I try to stress the importance of staying connected, whether that be Active Reserves or working with other veterans. It can serve as a life line. Staying involved has many positive results. You can make new acquaintances and may even happen upon business opportunities. Besides, someone has to set an example and lead.
David A. Jensen
*At the bottom right of the two page spread at the top of this post, there is a photo of David’s brother Alan Jensen and his fellow Marine James Huff. The caption reads – Sgt. Alan T. Jensen with Sgt. James E. Huff in early October 1967. (Sgt. Huff was KIA October 27, 1967 ten days after Sgt. Jensen)
I’ve been involved in scouting for many years. “Do a good turn daily” is the Boy Scout slogan. Bottom line, I was encouraged to be a good person…trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave clean and reverent. That’s what I try to project into the world each day.
The concept of public service is an important focus in the Boy Scouts and it’s a theme that’s also seen in the military. There are many retired military men in my family, primarily Marines. Right now, we have one family member on active duty. I thought seriously about joining myself before I started college last year.
Military service is a 100% worthy thing to do with your life. When you join, you do so knowing you face war and you do it willingly because you believe in what we all want. In America, we have individual liberties and freedoms that people in other countries can only dream of. You work to protect those freedoms and to protect other people’s families along with your own. That’s really impressive to me. I think you are heroes. I’m very thankful for what you do.
Derek W. (Eagle Scout, college student, outdoorsman – Age 19)
I’m still going strong with my books. I have had the privilege and pleasure of handing out copies to veterans wherever I go. Recently, I ran into a publishing problem that gave me pause. The company I use to produce the books raised the cost significantly. They are approximately double the cost they used to be. I searched around for other companies that could publish the books for a better price but none of them had the ability to create custom text and photo boxes the way Shutterfly does. I called and wrote them, hoping that I could appeal to them to keep my cost for the books the same as they’d always been. I explained that the project was created for our veterans and that I bear all costs myself since the books are gifts to the recipients. I thought they might have a special program for projects like mine but alas, they don’t. I was disappointed, however, for the moment, I will continue to use Shutterfly. I just won’t be able to distribute as many copies.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve gotten some nice, new letters and I will post them here over the next few days. If you, or someone you know wants to include a letter in Words For Warriors, please touch base at email@example.com. This is a living project and it grows and changes for the better all the time.
This is just a little update. I haven’t stopped in to add anything here in a while but that doesn’t mean I’m not still publishing and handing out copies of Words For Warriors. As a matter of fact, I just got a new letter from an adorable 10 year old girl that I included in the latest printing.
If you want to add a letter and a photo or two to for the website and/or book, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a “community” project and additional participants are always welcome.
*By the way, I’m looking for a few good Army Rangers! I want to give a couple of books to Ranger veterans specifically, so if you’ve got a suggestion for someone to send a copy to, I’m all ears.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve been able to set aside enough money to print another batch of books. I’m extremely happy with the Second Edition but I think it would be nice to collect some new letters to be included in the next printing. Now that I know approximately when I’ll be publishing additional books (mid-July/early August), I will see about soliciting some fresh letters and photos. It’s nice to have a target date nailed down for the next phase of this project that I love so much!
As you go about your day, please keep the Words For Warriors Project in mind. Let your friends know what we’re doing here and how they can participate. This book is a collaborative effort and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve created so far.
I’ve just sent out the last copy of the current edition of Words For Warriors to an Army veteran. That means I’ll start thinking about placing an order for additional books in the near future. First, I need to re-fill my cookie jar and have some jobs lined up to accomplish that goal. In the meantime, I’m going to use this lull to re-configure this website. I like some aspects of the way it looks, like the sliding banner across the top but I don’t like some of the other visuals. I’m going to play around with it…try on some new clothes, if you will, to see if I can find a template that I like the look of.
As always, I’m happy to have new letters for the next editions of the book I put out. Please contribute a few lines and a photo or two. If you’ve already written a letter, let your friends know about our project. It’s an easy and fun way to make a positive contribution!
I haven’t posted an update for a while but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on this project. I got the second edition of Words For Warriors published and have distributed many copies. Actually, I’m down to my last few. I have committed to give some of those to a wonderful organization that helps veterans seeking employment.
I’ve handed out the majority of the newest edition to veterans I run into in my daily life. Just a few days ago there was a small group of people collecting donations for a charity outside my local grocery store. They asked if I would contribute. I wished them luck but told them I save all my extra pennies for our veterans (this project in particular). Turns out the woman seeking donations was married to a Navy vet and her son (who was there with her) was home on leave. He’s a Marine. I went back to my car, got two of our books, gave one to her son and asked her to give the other to her husband. That’s the fun part of accidental meetings. It’s a pleasure to have something tangible to hand to those who have served (and who are still serving).
Speaking of things that please me, I was able to hand a copy of our book to a Marine veteran named Michael Golembesky and his teammate/friend J.J. Michael recently published a book called Level Zero Heroes about his experiences as a Marine Special Operations man in Afghanistan. It’s a powerful book and one you might be interested in reading. Couldn’t be happier about being able to give he and J.J. a tangible “thank you” from all of the people who contributed to Words For Warriors.
As always I continue to ask people who would like to participate in this project to write letters of their own to be included in subsequent editions of Words For Warriors. It’s a great way to show appreciation for all of the hard work our military members put in. Remember, thinking kind words is great but writing them down and passing them on means so much more…
Even when I’m not posting often, rest assured I’m working diligently to see that our book gets to as many veterans as possible. If you have helpful ideas for me, contact info for people you think would like a copy or a letter you want to submit, please send it along. I’m always available at email@example.com
I’m delighted to say that the second edition of Words For Warriors is now ready to go to the publisher. I will be double checking everything this weekend and I’ll send it off on Sunday evening or Monday morning. I like the way it shaped up. I am, of course, still happy to have any additional letters people want to send. This will be the last order of books for this year but I will publish more next year (after refilling my cookie jar) and I’ll include any new letters in the next printing. As you go about your day and you run into people who might be willing to contribute, please let them know about this project! I’m very grateful to those of you who have already taken time to pen a few lines to our very deserving veterans. Thank you.
After so many years we’ve seen a lot of changes. We’ve seen a lot of battles, we’ve seen a lot of war. We’ve seen a lot of goodness, we’ve seen a lot of evil but mostly, we’ve seen a lot of sacrifice. To me, our freedom comes from those sacrifices. I created a painting of a soldier returning home and tried to capture the sacrifice that the soldier made. The eagle in this painting is flying over that sacrifice which was made in the name of God and country and freedom. What it’s all about is unconditional love and going beyond the call of duty which is what the world needs right now more than anything. I want the people who defend this country to know that there are people out there who care.
Hidden Words – The words at the bottom of the painting say, “OUR FREEDOM COMES NOT FROM THE GENEROSITY OF THE STATE, BUT FROM THE HAND OF GOD.”
Tie a Yellow Ribbon – The soldier is returning home. He looks over at the picture, drawn by his daughter, nailed to a telephone pole with a yellow ribbon tied right below it. She writes “In God We Trust” and “I Love You Dad.”
In Honor Of – Between the soldier and the town are ghosts of policemen, firemen and soldiers honoring him for fighting for what they gave their lives for.
Kinship – One soldier was his buddy, wearing the same deployment patch he is.
In Formation – As your eye follows the four telephone wires towards the town then beyond, you’ll see four snow lines going up into the mountains. At the end of the lines are four F-16 fighters flying in the Missing Soldier Formation.
From Ashes – Between the 3rd and 4th jet are the 3 firemen raising the flag in front of the remnants of the twin towers in Manhattan.
Raising the Flag – To the right of the 4th jet are the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
Defenders – On one side of the main telephone pole, in the mountain, is Mother Teresa, who gave her life to the poorest of the poor. On the other side is Dr. Martin Luther King, who gave his life defending freedom.
World Peace – In the snowiest part of the mountain, to the left, is the Pentagon. World peace is defended there daily. In flight, below the Pentagon is United Flight 93. On the side of the plane, in the immortal words of civilian Todd Beamer it says, “Let’s Roll.”
Summit – At the top of the mountain is the American flag. In the sky is our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, soaring to great heights over all the sacrifices in the name of God, country and freedom.
When I post letters I do so because it allows readers to see what is in the books I hand out. It’s also an opportunity for veterans who might not be in my immediate sphere to read the letters that have been written to them by all of the contributors to this project. The internet posts convey the meaning of the letters but they do look much more impressive when I put them into the book with proper layout. I recently posted a letter from Logan C. He included many great photos with his letter so I had enough between the text and the pictures to create a two page layout. This is what it looks like.
I’m diligently working on the second edition of Words For Warriors. It’s shaping up quite nicely and just in time! I had the opportunity to send 9 copies to a group of Army Rangers who were getting together for a summer party. I’m now down to the last couple of copies of the first edition available to distribute. Some of the letters from the first edition will appear in the second edition but many new letters will be included. I still have August 15th as my target date to send the new edition off to be printed.
The second edition cover will look like the first edition cover with the exception of the color and a little notation on the spine indicating that it’s a subsequent edition. I liked the original red cover and I think the blue looks great as well.
Remember, if you know anyone who might like to contribute a letter to the Words For Warriors Project, it’s not too late. Please encourage them to do so! It doesn’t take much time to write a few words and you never know…it might make somebody’s day!
When you join the military you join a family. You take on more responsibility than the average individual and are taught to excel in leadership. I have made friends for life that I met in the military. We have been through things that others will not understand and that is a bond we share. It makes us who we are. We volunteered to do the things we did and were proud to do each and every single one of them.
Army Airborne Combat Veteran SGT. Logan Colson
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door. (Irish Blessing)