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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)

TITLE: Last Letter Home
By Shayne Catoe


Dear Dad,

I canít get to a computer right now, so youíll have to wait for the mail to run to receive this letter. By that, I mean weíre hunkered down in this burnt out mosque under heavy mortar fire. In times like these I often think of writing ďthe letter,Ē but never had the gall to before. Somehow this timeís different. My buddies are writing letters too. I donít know if Iím getting out of here in one piece this time. Weíre trapped in here, itís all sand and heat. Weíre out of water, but have half a small bag of hard candies left. Part of me is ready to charge anything that comes at us, the other part of me wants to hide somewhere, but there is nowhere.

Before the firefight we were sometimes working nineteen hour days. That seems like a cake walk compared to the last three weeks in ďpurgatory.Ē Thatís what the guys call the mosque, because weíre not dead yet, but weíre probably not going to make it out of this alive. We feel forsaken by the higher ups, who sent us out on patrol. We must be deep behind enemy lines by now, or weíd have been rescued by now. None of us has any answers.

Why am I telling you all this garbage? I donít know, except I just have to be strong in front of the guys, and Iíve got to let this out somehow. You always call me your hero, but thatís the last thing I am. I donít want to be brave anymore, I really donít, Iím scared beyond myself. I hate this place. I could never give my life up for anyone. I donít know what I was thinking when I joined up. Itís insanity here.

The other day, a kid came into the mosque throwing rocks at us, he couldnít of been more than eight, reminded me of Ben, until we saw the bombs strapped to his tiny frame. Iím not gonna tell you everything that happened after that, but Tony got the thing defused. We buried the kid inside ďpurgatory.Ē It ripped my heart apart, but at the same time made me angry enough to do what I had to. Now I can hardly live with myself. Survival is all that seems to matter right now.

After being in this fight, Iíve found that itís the absolute fear that drives me, not the bravery. Sometimes I wish for this war to end for my own selfish desires and not for my country. Iím so ashamed. But when it comes right down to it, thereís one reason Iím in this mosque, thereís one reason I came to Iraq, and thatís because of my familyís freedom. I love you. No matter what happens in the next few days, hours, or minutes, Iíll take my stand here in this place. It will be for you and for my country and for my Lord. If I donít see you again in this life Iíll see you again in the next with the Lord. Heís all I have left now to protect me now. My M-16 is almost empty and the grenades are all gone. God forgive what Iíve become in this war and bring me home to you.

All my love to you Dad,
Your only Son,

This letter was mailed home to Nicks Father after being found on his uniform. He was the only one who did not make it out of the mosque alive among the soldiers. He used his body as a barricade to shield them from a live IED, while getting one last shot at the enemy before help arrived from a new base camp. Courage is without fault. Fear is its fuel and Nick was the Lordís instrument that fuel ran through.

Nick feared death, but in the end was a hero beyond himself, beyond his fears and beyond the grave. His family mourns in pride. His father keeps Nicksí letter close to his heart in his shirt pocket to always remind him of his sonsí love and sacrifice. It is that sacrifice that keeps him his hero. It is that sacrifice that immortalizes him in the eyes of his country, and it is that sacrifice that changed the fear on the pages of Nicks' letter to the hope of a nationsí freedom.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Brigitte Hidalgo02/29/08
The ultimate act of love! Thank you for this story. There are many heroes just like Nick. Let's not forget them!
Celeste Ammirata02/29/08
This story touched me deeply on so many levels. Only God knows why he chose to take Nick home and leave his family to mourn their son. I know they feel proud that he sacrificed himself for his fellow soldiers, in spite of tremendous fear.
I'm glad that his thoughts were with the Lord his last day.
And I feel some comfort in the knowledge that Nick will never feel fear again, though my heart breaks for his family.
Thank you for sharing. God bless.
Lauryn Abbott03/04/08
Wow! As I sit here typing, trying to clear my watery eyes I am again reminded that freedom is a very costly thing. I'm so, so sorry for this family and for countless other families, but am also intensely grateful for their ultimate sacrifice. Thanks for sharing this.
LauraLee Shaw03/04/08
Very well-written and a timely message.
Nancy Quinn03/04/08
No greater love. . . Powerful story. Thank you for sharing this. I pray daily for our soldiers and their families, and I can't even begin to imagine the feeling of pain of the loss of an only child, yet feeling incredibly proud of the extreme sacrifice and bravery he showed. So glad the Holy Spirit prompted him to write a letter to his family. God bless :)
Jan Ackerson 03/26/08
Shayne, I'm in charge of finding excellent articles for the Front Page showcase, and I'd like to feature this entry for the week of April 28. Look for it on the FW Home Page, and congratulations!
Helen Dowd04/28/08
This was a terrific story! It kept me spell-bound the whole way through. How much we owe those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom...How proud this father is for his brave son...How sad the story...How sad the ending, but not a surprise....I'm glad the father got the letter....God bless you in your writing...Helen
Beth LaBuff 04/29/08
Wow! You took us inside with this poignant letter. This is very well written. I'm glad you are the FW Frontpage Showcase author this week with this.
Janice Cartwright04/29/08
The honesty on subjects like courage and fear, sacrifice and love are what takes this story to a higher, deeper level. The soldier's narrative expresses how both the base and the noble drives the man; but in the end it is love that wins out, not flawed human love, but that which is imparted from beyond the self from God.