Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ulitmate Sacrifices - War Letters for Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, lest we forget how our liberty has been forged, I wanted to share a few letters from Andrew Carroll’s book War Letters. Bear will me. I chose 5 letters, four from War Letters and one from The NY Times 2008.

And a special thanks to all those who are currently fighting for freedom around the world. There are some amazing stories in family histories related to people who served their countries. Does your family have any stories?

As we experience the joys of our freedom, it’s so easy to get lost in our every-day struggles and triumphs and forget the thousands of men and women who have made our freedom possible. Since the first Memorial day was celebrated on May 30, 1868, people have taken an opportunity to remember.

Remember that a price has been paid.

A cost of pain, suffering, and life was given.

For Us

As writers, we can appreciate the beauty in which these men and women share their hearts to the ones closest to them. The descriptions, the emotional energy, the imagery, draws us into a world we hope to never experience, unless it’s between the pages of a book.


If you have never had the opportunity to read Nurse Clara Barton's letters, they are beautiful and powerful documents. As a writer, you can appreciate her lovely use of words - as a human, you can appreciate her courage.
Dec 12, 1862

The moon is shining through the soft haze with brightness almost prophetic. For the last half hour I have stood alone in the aweful stillness of its glimmering light gazing upon the strange sad scene around me striving to say, "Thy will Oh God be done."

The camp fires blaze with unwanted brightness, the sentry's tread is still but quick - the acres of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for as I gazed sorrowfully upon them, I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger's wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning sacrifice.....

Mine are not the only waking hours, the light yet burns brightly in our kind hearted General's tent where he pens what may be a last farewell to his wife and children and thinks sadly of his fated men.

Gen. John Pershing knew the devastating blow of loss. While away in August 1915, he was informed that his wife and three daughters had died in a house fire. His six-year old son, Warren, was the only survivor. Excerpts from this letter, written October 10, 1918 while Pershing was in Europe fighting during WWI, is to his son.

My dear Kiddie,
I have your letter of Sunday written on letter page with the Stars and Stripes on one edge. It makes very pretty writing paper....

I want you to know while you are still a boy something of the fine patriotism that inspires the American soldiers who are fighting over here for the cause of liberty....I want you to see some of the battlefields of France with me, over which the American soldiers have fought in carrying out the great purpose of our people. It will enable you to realize later in life just what sacrifice means and just what degree of sacrifice our army is called upon to make and which they have made and are making bravely and courageously.

Pfc Dom Bart wrote this letter to his wife after surviving Normandie on June 6, 1944

It was 6:30 in the morning and just about to land between Point-du-Hoc and Vierville-sur-Mer on the beaches of Normandie, Omaha Beach, the Allies called it....

I lost all hopes and said my last prayer to the Good Lord. The prayer was a passage to safety, but I sure was in a bad way. Got to the beach half frozen and almost unable to move and then I passed out. How long I remained there, i don't recall, but when I came to, the fighting was at a climax. Pulled myself together and sought a rifle...

Our position was desperate, but with sheer will, fear, and luck we overcame all obstacles and pushed inland to capture Vierville-sur-Mer, our first town. The price was high but covered ourselves with glory...

Today was declared a holiday by Eisenhower and church services were held for all, in memoriam of the boys who paid the supreme sacrifice on D-Day and hereafter.

Here is a letter from one of the soliders who died in Iraq. Specialist Daniel E. Gomez left this letter for his sweetheart 'just in case' something happened to him.

Hey baby. If you’re reading this, then something has happen to me and I am sorry. I promised you I would come back to you, but I guess it was a promise I could not keep. You know I never believe in writing “death letters.” I knew if I left one for my folks it would scare them. Then I met you. We were supposed to meet, darling. I needed someone to make me smile, someone that was an old romantic like I was. I was going through a very rough time in Iraq and I was startin to doubt my mental state. Then one day after a patrol, I go to my facebook and there you were...

I can’t stop crying while I writing this letter, but I have to talk to you one last time, because maybe the last time I heard your voice I did not know it would be the last time I heard your voice....

I Love You. Go be happy, go raise a family. Teach your kids right from wrong, and have faith, darling. I think I knew I loved you even before I met. I love you, Katy. * Kiss * Goodbye

I'll leave you with a letter Mary Custis Lee wrote of her husband, General Robert E. Lee only a little while after his death in October 1870.

I pray that his noble example may stimulate our youth to a course of uprightness which never wavered from the path of duty at any sacrifice of ease or pleasure, & so long too has the will of God been the guiding star of his actions.
I have never so truly felt the purity of his character as now, when I have nothing left but its memory, a memory which I know will be cherished in many hearts besides my own.

This day is set aside as a memorial for those who have served and still serve our country. A celebration of a liberty paid by blood. Let us remember, the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, just as we remember the God-man who sacrificed His life for our eternal liberty.

There is a beautiful song by Twila Paris called What Did He Die For? If you get a chance, follow the link and listen to it.
 (Warning – the video has clips from the Passion of the Christ and a WWII film)

For a less graphic version follow this link:

May we never forget.


Casey said...

Great post Pepper, I love the pictures. Those letters can be heart breaking.

Pepper said...

Thanks, Case
I hope it wasn't too long. It was a tough call between letters. There are so many beautiful ones - and as writers, I think when we read the words of people from that time period, it helps us feel the emotion of those moments.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper, it's not too long. *and just ignore my text to you...I was a day late!!!!* It is perfect. What beautiful letters...what a wonderful glimpse into the life of a soldier. I thought the one from the Iraq soldier so incredibly sad, and I'm sure his sweetheart treasures that letter.