Friday, September 23, 2005

A Father's Story

Yesterday, on the Laura Ingraham show, a father of a marine who was killed in action and a mother of a another soldier killed were interviewed.

The father, Gary Qualls, read a letter which was the last letter he had received from his son, Lance Corporal Louis Qualls, before he was killed in action on November 16, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. It can be found here, along with a letter to his brother and letters of condolence from Texas state legislators.
This is the letter, in it's entirety:

LOUIS' LAST LETTER TO DAD FROM IRAQ

Dear Dad,

Well I saw this post card at the PX and when
I read it, it summed up all my feelings and my
thoughts at the moment so I only thought it
appropriate to get it for you. Well there's a
lot going on here. They say that the next
month will probably be some of the most
serious combat that the war has yet to see,
and well I'm right in the middle of it. I think
I'm truly scared, because not just knowing
I'm going to be in a fight, but I fear it's a fight
for my life. So Dad I need your prayers and
your advice more than ever. I know you've
always been there for me, and I know you
always will be. I just can't wait to come home.
I just want you to know that no matter what
happens in the next weeks that I've always
looked up to you and I always will.

You know kids idol some football player or
something along those lines but me I've
always idol'd and looked up to you, and I
always thought damn I can only dream of
doing the things you've done. Well I love you
and I'll be home soon. Well lookin' forward to
hearin' from ya'll soon and tell Cathe thanx
for the emails.

Your Son,
Louis


My son is 16. Mr. Qualls said in the interview that his son signed up for the marines when he was only 17. He said he had finished reading the letter from his son less than a hour before the uniformed men stood outside his door, flanking a chaplain. He said all he could do was repeat the words, "No, No, No", over and over.

I don't think I would want my son to join the armed services, but if he wanted to, I wouldn't stop him. When a young man is 17 he cannot join without his parent's permission. If my son insisted on me giving my permission, I am not sure I would want to give it. However, During these times when we are engaged in a war against terror, I could only assume the reason he may want to join would be a noble one. Why else would he want to risk his life?

A few years ago, my daughter, Crystal Star, who was only 21 at the time, but living with an abusive boyfriend, called one night and asked me to take her to the hospital because she was sick. I went over to her place to pick her up but I didn't take her to the hospital right away, until my wife, her stepmother insisted that she really was sick and I should take her.

It was only after the hospital had admitted her that I found out she had taken 85 extra-strength Tylenol and her liver was shutting down as a result. She had been despondent over a fight her and her boyfriend had. The doctors told us she was dying. Also, she had admitted to the doctors that she had a cocaine addiction, which disqualified her for a transplant.

Seemingly, the only thing we could do is watch her die.

Words cannot begin to describe the pain I felt when the reality of the situation sunk in. Children are not supposed to die before their parents.

I am a proud and largely unemotional man, but for the first time in many years, I cried.

And prayed.

Here are pictures of my daughter and her family today. (not the same guy she was with at the time)

After hovering on the brink of death for a week, Crystal pulled through, by the grace of God, but the memory of that horror will stay with me the rest of my life.

I don't want my children to die before I do. Gary Qualls did not want his child to die before him. Cindy Sheehan did not want her child to die before her.

I cannot imagine the pain they must feel, although I had a taste of it the day my daughter took those pills.

All in all, I think if my child were to die before I do, I can only hope he dies fighting for our freedom.

And for Cindy Sheehan's right to protest his service.

8 comments:

Lone Ranger said...

Let me put in a good word for the military. The majority of the jobs in the military are support jobs. The majority of the people in the military never fire a shot, except at a target range. A military base is an American city. It has churches, grocery stores, department stores, radio and TV stations, movie theaters, an airport, pretty much everything an American city should have. You can be pretty much anything you want to be. My first job was as a computer operator. I spent a few years on Okinawa, processing paychecks, inventories, etc. and then went to Albuquerque, where I was a shift supervisor at the Air Force Weapons Lab at the age of 22, helping develop some of the weapons that are still used today. Then I went into broadcast journalism. The military takes kids, gives them skills, and then expects results. It instills them with pride and self-reliance that will stick with them and give them a leg up on all their competitors for the rest of their life. It is my firm belief that a hitch in the military is more valuable than a college education. The military turns boys into men and girls into women, something society seems incapable of doing these days. My family had an unbroken chain of military service that went back to WWI. Then Clinton got elected. I called a family meeting and announced that night that I was retiring six years short of 30 and that I didn't want my sons to enlist. I was not going to tarnish the family history by serving such a dishonorable man, even if it meant losing tens of thousands of dollars in retirement pay. Looking back, I wish I'd told my sons to go in anyway. They'd be much stronger people today.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Powerful post, Mark.

I personally regret not having gone into military service myself. Not to say where I'm at in life is a bad place to be. But it's interesting the choices we make. And how those choices open up other doorways to step through, only to find more doors and more choices to make.

I'm 37 now, and past my physical prime; but still in better shape than a lot of people. The marines won't take me, but I do believe the army just raised the age qualification to 37.

I've only superficially looked into it; but it does weigh on my mind. I corresponded a bit by e-mail with army recruitment, filled out a questionairre, and haven't heard back from them yet.

My Dad was a career man in the Air Force, and served half of his time as a fighter pilot. He said joining the military was the best decision he ever made.

BRUISER said...

Mark,

Very powerful post and very timely. When children pass before their parents I feel that is a deep and overwhelming situation. I have One Father and three uncles who served in Vietnam. My father I consider the lucky one because although he was unable to fly in the Air Force as he had originally wanted, due to eye problems, he was a career Navy submariner.
Unfortunately my uncles, the forgotten vets, were sprayed with Agent Orange in the daily grind of what one still refers to as the shit. All have fortunately outlasted their father, a man in Patton's Tank Brigade during WW2, yet not their mother as she has had to endure the pain of watching eveything from debilitating strokes, physical abuse, and substance abuse problems her sons have had after Nam.
I understand why people hate when the left talks down war while our soldiers are in a fight for their lives but when the right propagandizes that we are UnAmerican for questioning our Heads of State completely shows me that the talking heads would like to forget the responsiblity of those in office and the effects of their actions. This is of course infuriates me coming from generations of those who have served because I never could blame soldiers for their service in a war, ever. Questioning the motives of said war should not make anyone UnAmerican because in fact it would seem even more patriotic to have those "we" elected, who work for "us", give us a complete list of their overall intentions. So I feel sorry that brave men and women die daily for this cause of Saudi Arabia renting out our Army for their protection. I feel sorry that Oliver North and Co. put more cocaine on the streets of "our" United States through Fujimori and the CIA, & I feel complete and utter contemt for those whose intentions are less than noble running our current government on both sides of the aisle. I hope someday we will get at least part of the truth on what the hell is really being done on behalf of America and Americans around the world. I leave you with these fine words of latin:

"Imperare sibi maximum imperium est"

"Mente non Marte"

Mark said...

Bruiser, That was a thoughtful and respectful comment. and one that is refreshingly welcome, coming from you.

There are many things I don't understand about what is going on in America and the world, But I have a deep respect for President Bush. I feel he is a man of honor and integrity, and I feel, whatever his mistakes or triumphs, that he is doing whay He feels is best for the country.

My opinion is that he is privy to a lot more information then what is reported and on the basis of that information, he is making decisions that makes it appear that he is making mistakes to us laymen.

Maybe I am wrong, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Just as I did for Clinton, although none of them need my approval.

Lone Ranger said...

I believe the maximum age for enlistment in all the branches of service has been raised to 42. Go for it. I recommend the Air Force.

BRUISER said...

Re: Lone Ranger- Yes Air Force ...they have a track record for taking care of their Military Dependents like no other branch of the military.

Re: Mark- See we have this great conversation and then you let me down by saying that Our President does not need your approval ....yes Mark he does .... we pay him.....we employ him....and I would have fired him years ago based on his policies both foreign and domestic.

Mark you really do count and your voice shall be heard if used wisely. Now get out there and stop voting against your best interests. Its time for the government to stop growing as large as the once fiscally conservatives have now let it. Like Bush ? Got 37% more government under his reign.

Liam said...

Mark, a very touching post. However should your son want to join the military to be part of the war on terror, you should remind him that that war is not one that can be won by sending troops to a battlefield. We missed that chance in Afghanistan. Terrorism is not a country you can invade and terrorists are not an army you can destroy. Terrorism is like the mythical hydra; you kill one terrorist and this gives rise to two more. To win, you don’t defeat the people; you have to undermine the idea that motivates the people. That is not a war for soldiers and it is likely to be a much harder and longer war than any we have fought before.

Weary Hag said...

This post has raised much emotion that I hesitate to plant a sappy comment and will just say that it was a fine read; very much appreciated on several levels, and I will now go and hug my 19 year old daughter who had thoughts of joining the military upon her high school graduation. She's just in from work now and I think I'd like to just go look at her for a minute or two.
So happy your daughter's life turned around for the better and what a lovely looking son she now has!