Category Archives: Letters to our veterans

From Maurice D. (Engineer – Age 27)

 

HeadshotI’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.

Maurice D. (Engineer, age 27)

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From Reuben Darby & David Jensen (Vietnam veterans)

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.

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This is how the story is laid out on the pages of the book. It’s a story that consists of two letters, one from Reuben Darby and one from David Jensen.

 

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.

Semper Fidelis,

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)

From Derek W. (Eagle Scout, College Student, Outdoorsman – Age 19)

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)

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Working on one of my service projects which involved demolition of an old wooden structure in order to build the Dominican Sisters a badly needed, new storage shed.

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From Rick K. (Painter)

Rick Kelley

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.

Rick Kelley

The Homecoming
The Homecoming

 

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.

From Logan C. (Army Veteran)

To my brothers and sisters,

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

A picture of me and my friend in the pack shed before loading a plane to jump. We are sitting on a bench in full jump gear. Counting the parachutes & our equipment we were typically jumping with 120-150lbs of equipment on us. I usually jumped with a radio in my ruck sack.
A picture of me and my friend in the pack shed before loading a plane to jump. We are sitting on a bench in full jump gear. Counting the parachutes & our equipment we were typically jumping with 120-150lbs of equipment on us. I usually jumped with a radio in my ruck sack.
Boarding a C-17 airplane for an Airborne operation.
Boarding a C-17 airplane for an Airborne operation.
Inside a C17 with two cannons. I was in an Airborne Artillery unit that actually dropped these 15,000lb cannons out of a plane with parachutes.
Inside a C-17 with two cannons. I was in an Airborne Artillery unit that actually dropped these 15,000lb cannons out of a plane with parachutes.
A picture I took after jumping out of a C130.  You can actually see the plane in the background.
A picture I took after jumping out of a C-130. You can actually see the plane in the background.
There were times in Iraq that the thermometer read 140 degrees out in the sun and about 115 in the shade.
There were times in Iraq that the thermometer read 140 degrees out in the sun and about 115 in the shade.

AIRBORNE CREED

 

 

From Michael K. (Army Veteran, Career Firefighter

This is for all of you warriors out there who are serving our nation.

I was once where you are in a very different time. I served in the first Gulf War and I consider that to have been a cake walk compared to what you are doing today. I think about the sacrifices that are made when I drive by an American flag. I think of not only you, I think of the backbone of every soldier which is their family. The family is also in the military.  They are just behind the scenes.

You men and women that proudly go off to a foreign country are an inspiration to all of us. The mission may be long and hard but the mission is always a success because of you. Speaking as a former service member you have millions of us soldiers in your pocket with you through our thoughts and prayers. Keep up the good work and know that I personally shake the hands of every soldier or veteran for a job well done. Thank you for what you do and remember that every day that goes by is one day closer to home. God Bless and be safe. Your country loves you.

Michael J. Kline

Michael K.

From Gina S. (Writer and Mom)

To our men and women who serve,

I see your sacrifice everywhere—on a nice day by the water when everyone is out with friends and family, or while putting my daughter to bed with wishes for sweet dreams and kisses to help make them come true. These are two of countless everyday moments that you sacrifice with your loved ones.  And because you do this, I get to have those moments in peace and security.

Thank you.

Thank you for all that you give up at home. Thank you for enduring long days away filled with danger or boredom, stifling heat or bitter cold, camel spiders and other wildlife, and mostly for facing whatever the day brings with courage.

Please tell your family that I thank them as well. The missing, worrying, dealing with appliances and vehicles that like to gang up and break down the moment you leave, and sending care from 7,000 miles away is not for the faint of heart.

What you and your family do for the rest of us is not taken for granted. It is honored and cherished. Hopefully the words in this book will help ensure that you never doubt this.
Sincerely,
Gina S.

p.s. my daughter thanks you too.

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From Sherm S. (USMC Veteran)

First and foremost, you, me and all of our brothers-in-arms, will always be WARRIORS.

Never, ever stop fighting for what you believe in. Choose your battles. Choose wisely. Fold your hands and pray for guidance, then Heaven help those who get in the way, for when God is on our side, who can be against us?

I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength – Phil. 4:13.

If you are lonely…In your loneliness find strength, in your strength find humility, in your heart find God.

Have a great day. Have a great life, and be the light of the world to others who are lost, for we are Warriors carrying the torch to all who live in darkness.

Stay Safe my Brothers,

Always and Forever,

Sherm S. (I joined the Marine Corps in the 70s, did my training at MCRD in San Diego, CA, and have always lived under the principles taught in the Corps: Honor, Courage, Commitment).

 

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From Carl B. (U.S. Navy Veteran)

I served from 1951-54 during the Korean conflict. As an aviation structural mechanic my job was to repair planes that had been damaged in battle. Ours was squadron of AD-4 Bakers (attack bombers) land-stationed at Moffett Field in San Jose, California. Prior to joining that squadron, I was stationed at Millington Air Station in Memphis and still prior to that in Jacksonville, Florida for job training. I did my basic in Great Lakes. I was called into active Naval Reserve from college after six weeks at Baylor University. I Was 18 and served until I was 21. When I came out I finished my education with the GI Bill.

During my time in the Navy and ever since, I have been convinced that every young American should contribute a year or two early in their life to military service. It would promote a feeling of patriotism that they do not feel otherwise. In my view, both they and the nation would benefit from this.

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who have served and who are currently serving by sacrificing and devoting years of their lives to protecting our Nation, our states, our communities and yes, our very families from those who oppose America and all that it stands for.

For those deployed overseas, may God bless and watch over you and your families here at home while they share in the sacrifice you are making for all of us. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

With deep appreciation,

Carl B.

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From Tanya J. (Grandmother, Avid Traveler)

Most of my relatives were foreign-born. My grandparents came from Germany. My grandfather came to America for the opportunity. He came first then my grandmother followed. They settled in Iowa to farm. None of my close relatives served in the military but many years ago I used to attend dances at the Air Force Academy and got a chance to know some of the cadets.

When I think of the men who volunteer for military service I think of men with great intelligence, who are proud of America and dedicated to her defense. I fly a flag at my house because I’m glad to be an American and want to honor the efforts of our men and women in uniform.

Tanya J.

From M. Davis Jr. (Veteran of the USMC, USAF, Health Services Management)

To my military brothers, sisters and your families,

I am honored to be a part of this great fraternity. We have a special bond that will last forever.

To those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, you remain forever in our hearts…

I joined the US Marine Corps in 1975 right after graduating high school thanks to my father who signed my enlistment papers as my mother would not. I began serving at 17 and I was fortunate to see the world during my three years of active duty. When it came time to re-enlist I wanted to be stationed anywhere in California. I was a Jersey boy and I’d had enough of winters. Needless to say my request was denied so I decided to get out. I landed a job with the US Postal Service and life was good. But something was missing and that something was the military.

After a long break in service I joined the US Air Force Reserves (USAFR) in 1999 in the career field I always wanted – Health Services Management. I have always been driven to make the best of situations no matter where I was stationed but my favorite mission was a deployment to the Dominican Republic as a member of the US Air Force medical readiness team in 2006. During this humanitarian joint force mission team, which treated over 16, 000 patients in a one month period, I was responsible for the triage of 600-1,000 patients daily. This mission was one of the most humbling experiences for me. Being surrounded by poverty and sickness makes one realize that we truly have a lot to be thankful for.

I have 17 years of USAFR service and counting. My current goal is to retire at the highest enlisted rank – Chief Master Sergeant E9

There is just something about this military fraternity. I love being a part of it. To me serving this great country is an honor that I am very proud of.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. “ John F. Kennedy

M. Davis Jr.  (SMSgt Davis E8 USAFR)

M. Davis

From Marti H. (Manager, Oil and Gas Company)

To all military personnel, active, now in the civilian world and retired,

Thank you. There aren’t words that I can write that express the gratitude I feel for all of your dedication and perseverance to keep the USA safe and secure. I am an average citizen that gets up and goes to work, enjoys their family and evenings out with friends as well as going to bed at night with the only worry being, did I set my automatic coffee pot to start brewing in the morning. Your days and nights are completely different and are filled with thoughts, emotions and surroundings I cannot imagine. Thank you.

My father was in the Navy at the end of WWII serving in the South Pacific. My brother served in the Army in the late 1970’s. I have a history in my family of service, but none during “war time”. I will have to say that a friend of the family served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Greg “Shorty” Short died of cancer in 2012. Talk about a champion and an inspiration to all who were privileged to know him. He received many commendations and medals which included two Distinguished Flying Crosses during Desert Storm. Next to his wife and children the Air Force and flying were the other loves of his life. He used to say “yep – they pay me to do this job!” Because of Shorty, is my view of our armed service men and women. Thank you.

Greg "Shorty" Short
Greg “Shorty” Short

As I have said the only experience I have had with the military is in peace time but, the fears and strain of deployment on families and friends of the dedicated that serve should be honored as well. When my children are late, or don’t call me back within a reasonable amount of time I get panicked. Where are they, are they hurt, do they need me? These are questions I ask when my daughter is coming home from a friend’s house late at night. I cannot comprehend the dull and constant fears your families and friends go through every second of every day. Thank you.

“AMERICA” wouldn’t be America without the men and women who have fought and fight to keep our country “FREE”. My highest praise and gratitude goes out to all of you, Thank you!

Gratefully,

Marti H.

Marti H.