A soldier sends a gift from the other side, which makes me think about the daily gifts our troops give us

Private Chris Kershaw, 19, a British soldier, didn’t really send a gift from the other side.  What he did, though, was think about the ones who would be left behind in the event he died in battle, and he left them a letter:

The youngest of six British soldiers blown up by a Taliban bomb joked about his death in a final letter to his family which was read out at his funeral today.

More than 500 mourners turned out to say a tearful farewell to Private Chris Kershaw, 19, as he was laid to rest at his parish church in the village of Idle, near Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Family and friends packed the church of Holy Trinity while many more stood outside as the service was relayed over a loud speaker.


Pte Kershaw wrote to his family: ‘This is to inform you of the unfortunate death of, well, me. I would like to explain that even though I don’t know how I died I am sure it was from some heroic act.

‘In the long run, I was doing the job I loved. This was my dream job and even though it had its ups and downs I loved every second of it.’

I am currently reading Marcus Luttrell’s Service: A Navy SEAL at War.  As I read, I keep thinking to myself (as everyone must when reading about the military generally and the SEALS specifically) “Wow, what amazing guys these are.  Highly intelligent, superbly fit, emotionally stable, deeply patriotic, supernaturally brave and stoic, adaptable, blessed with inhumanly quick reflexes, fun-loving, and with an almost saintly altruism when it comes to protecting their team, or the small, weak, and helpless.”

A few other things come through in Luttrell’s book.  As Private Kershaw wrote, these guys enjoy what they do.  While I like a vigorous and relatively safe work-out followed by a hot shower, a cuddle with my dog, some quiet time at the computer, lunch with a friend, a bit of desk work, time with my kids, etc., these guys enjoy practicing how to shoot at each other from speeding cars, and find it invigorating to patrol Iraqi streets riddled with IEDs and showered by bullets.  They are a breed apart.

Not only do many of our volunteer fighters enjoy what they do, many of them die doing, or sustain terrible, irreparable injuries while on the job.  Every time Luttrell describes one of those deaths (e.g, Michael Mansoor, Marc Lee, Jon Tumilson, or the Operation Red Wings Team), I get so upset I have to stop reading and regroup before I can get back to the book.  Luttrell doesn’t wallow in the deaths, although he honors these men by remembering them and their sacrifice.  I’m the one wallowing.

Aside from each individual tragedy, I also feel that, every time one of these men dies, our society loses someone a little more special than the average Joe (or Jane).  These are the leaders, the do-ers, the moral guides — and they’re the ones who are first in line when the bullets fly.  We need them most, yet they’re the most likely to leave us behind.  That’s just so wrong at a global level.  And yet of course, it’s quite right at an individual level.  These guys wouldn’t be the leaders, do-ers and moral guides that they are if they lived my safe, confined, dull little life.  Being true to themselves means taking risks, and that’s just the way it is.

For those of us looking on from the sidelines, though, there is some comfort in Private Kershaw’s words:  “In the long run, I was doing the job I loved. This was my dream job and even though it had its ups and downs I loved every second of it.”