Dear Mr. President,
I'm writing you today as a Soldier in the Army over which you preside as Commander in Chief. I'm writing because should the time ever come that my wishes need to be heard, I shall not be able to utter them. Please allow me to speak them to you now, and please hear me. Please remember these words should I not be able to speak them.
It is not my wish to be overly dramatic. I have seen others who have failed to ask for such favors before, who have waited until too late to make their wishes known, who have been made a mockery to their own values. I do not wish to be one of those, and so I speak while I still carry breath. I speak it now because I fear that I have reason to be concerned that such things would happen if I were to return home without my life from my next deployment.
Each of us who has gone into harm's way has had an opportunity to reflect in our own way on our mortality and what the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice means to us. I have had this moment, and before I left for my tour, I considered very carefully what I would like for those who know and care for me to know should I not return home with my life intact. Among other things, I wrote them a letter, to this point unopened, detailing my wishes for their conduct surrounding my death. I made it clear that should the ultimate sacrifice be taken from me, and rest assured that I risk this willingly but do not suffer it willingly, I do not wish to be made use of for anyone's purposes or for the influence of my fellow citizens.
When I went into harm's way before, I had no fear that my return to the United States would be made with less than perfect dignity. The recent consideration of revising the policy concerning the return of our fallen to Dover has caused me to feel that I need to express my wishes now. Consider this, if you will, an addendum to my Last Will and Testament.
I do not wish for the press to have access to the repatriation of my remains, Sir. I do not wish for the image of my returning casket to made available to anyone. I wish to maintain the privacy and dignity that my return to my native soil has been promised to this point in my service. I will not be able to defend myself from predation for the use of others, Sir. Please protect me when and if I cannot protect myself; when I cannot open my own mouth in protest, when I will not have breath in my body to form the words, "Please, leave me in peace. I just want to go home."
Once the image of my returning remains has been captured, you cannot control its use. It does not matter that no one can see my remains, Sir. It is my body, and the vessel that carries it will belong to me, too. It will be the last possession I have, and one of very few that I will take to my grave with me. Please don't allow others, who do not know me, who do not love me, who do not care for what I wish, to make use of me in such a way when I may not respond. Please do not even risk that I may be in one of those caskets used for a purpose of which I would not approve. Please do not chance letting the risk I took as a willing Soldier for what I believe be used as a tool for someone with whom in life I respectfully disagree. This, Sir, to me, would be the ultimate insult and disrespect to my service.
Please, Sir, do not let them count coup on my defenseless remains.
These are my wishes, Sir. I wish, should my life be required of me so that my children may live in a country that remains free from terror, for the same dignity that has been afforded those who have gone before me in this effort.
If the day comes when I am on that plane, unable to speak for myself, please remember what I have asked of you. Please defend me then, Sir.
Until then, Sir, I remain,
An American Soldier
21 May SWJ Roundup
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