Again, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to work with you like this.
I first want to tell you about an e-mail I received yesterday from a good friend who formerly taught English at a well-regarded, private, liberal-arts college. His message was a simple one:
Wish I had had Winston in Expository Writing class!
I have known this man for a good ten years now–and I assure you, he was never an easy grader for anyone. When he compliments a writer, a writer has, in the best meaning of the word, been complimented.
I tell you this to encourage you. You speak your soul, heart, and mind well. Don’t change your writing one bit.
Even more, though, I want to thank you for–and encourage you to continue–your bravery. I know that you do not often feel brave. Your willingness to speak so openly about your experiences, however, tells a much different story.
Everyone is willing to accept that War is hard, that it changes men and women forever. Many, if not most, though, prefer to think that opinions about War are straightforward. It is a necessary evil, say some, an unnecessary atrocity, say others. Some rail against the Doves. Some rail against the Hawks. On and on.
Even more complex, in my experience, is the word warrior. While it is a good word, an ancient one, I do believe that today, in this world of sound bytes and 140-character tweets, it can also be too straightforward. Warriors are strong, decisive, brave, all true. But too often when we think “warrior,” we think of something out of “The Iliad” or “The Lord of the Rings.” It’s a bit too high-drama in many folks’ minds, it seems to me.
You, however, are telling us that “warrior” can mean both high-drama and sheer-boredom. Even more it can mean a fierce loyalty to one’s brothers- and sisters-in-arms, a tenderness to a little boy, a rage toward a father, a soul-searching horror before a frightened son, all within a matter of seconds.
No one wants to listen to you and your fellow combat veterans, Winston, because listening means having to experience right along with you that last sentence of the previous paragraph, every feeling barely separated from the next, protected only by some meager comma, high-drama on a small scale, a large scale, no scale at all, all within minutes, none of which one can be predicted, all of which can mean life, death and a never-ending invitation to grief, guilt, and ever-recurring, never-fully-answered cries, both inner and outer, of “why?”
It is a honor to serve you, Winston. I look forward to doing as much as of that as you would wish.
Until next time,