On this Veteran’s Day as we wind down the longest war in American history the war in Afghanistan. I would like to share with you the true cost for those who served in uniform and their families in a soldier’s last letter home from the war that just ended the war in Iraq.
Private First Class Jesse Givens had been in Iraq for a less than a month. The 34 year old married with a stepson and a new son on the way was unable to shake a sense of dread – and a need to say goodbye to his family.
On May 1, as he helped to snuff fires set by insurgents, his tank crashed through a berm and fell into a canal off the Euphrates River. The rest of the crew escaped through a hatch, but Givens was trapped inside. Of all the dangers they were warned about, of all the terrible scenarios that went through the minds of his family, it was a scene nobody imagined:
Jesse Givens husband, father and father to be drowned in the desert.
A month later Melissa Givens, Jesse’s 27-year-old widow while going through her husband’s personal effects fond a letter that simply said “Open after my death”. This is Jesse’s goodbye to his wife, Melissa, his stepson Dakota and his unborn son Bean.
I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been getting bad feelings though and well if you are reading this . . .
I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. . . . The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. You will never know how complete you have made me. Each and every one of you. You saved me from loneliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never even dreamed existed . . .
Dakota, you are more son than I could ever ask for. I can only hope I was half the dad. You taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn’t so serious and sometimes you have to play. You have a big beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play together. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. Make them smile and shine just like you. I hope someday you will understand why I didn’t come home. Please be proud of me. Please don’t stop loving life. Take in every breath like it’s your first. I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.
Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your mom’s belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you were on the way. I dream of you every night, and I always will. Don’t ever think that since I wasn’t around that I didn’t love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love. Please understand that I had to be gone so that I could take care of my family. I love you Bean.
I have never been so blessed as the day I met you Melissa. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and my best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A million lifetimes’ worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. Please keep our babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. . . . Do me a favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.
Private First Class Jesse Givens – Thank you for your service.