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
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I can’t get to a computer right now, so you’ll have to wait for the mail to run to receive this letter. By that, I mean we’re hunkered down in this burnt out mosque under heavy mortar fire. In times like these I often think of writing “the letter,” but never had the gall to before. Somehow this time’s different. My buddies are writing letters too. I don’t know if I’m getting out of here in one piece this time. We’re trapped in here, it’s all sand and heat. We’re 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 “purgatory.” That’s what the guys call the mosque, because we’re not dead yet, but we’re 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 we’d have been rescued by now. None of us has any answers.
Why am I telling you all this garbage? I don’t know, except I just have to be strong in front of the guys, and I’ve got to let this out somehow. You always call me your hero, but that’s the last thing I am. I don’t want to be brave anymore, I really don’t, I’m scared beyond myself. I hate this place. I could never give my life up for anyone. I don’t know what I was thinking when I joined up. It’s insanity here.
The other day, a kid came into the mosque throwing rocks at us, he couldn’t of been more than eight, reminded me of Ben, until we saw the bombs strapped to his tiny frame. I’m not gonna tell you everything that happened after that, but Tony got the thing defused. We buried the kid inside “purgatory.” 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, I’ve found that it’s 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. I’m so ashamed. But when it comes right down to it, there’s one reason I’m in this mosque, there’s one reason I came to Iraq, and that’s because of my family’s freedom. I love you. No matter what happens in the next few days, hours, or minutes, I’ll take my stand here in this place. It will be for you and for my country and for my Lord. If I don’t see you again in this life I’ll see you again in the next with the Lord. He’s all I have left now to protect me now. My M-16 is almost empty and the grenades are all gone. God forgive what I’ve 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 Lord’s 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 Nicks’ letter close to his heart in his shirt pocket to always remind him of his sons’ 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 nations’ freedom.
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