Through the Gap

December 1, 2006

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my grandma on my father’s side. She had something really important to tell me, she said. Now, a little background on that side of my family. My father was in the Army, I had two uncles in the military. My grandpa was in the Navy during WWII, and he met my grandma, who was also in the military in some capacity, during those times. Going back to our country’s first conflicts, my family had deep roots in fighting for this country. My grandma’s favorite hobby is genealogy, the study of my family’s roots. So when she called me, she was telling me about how her half-brother had died fighting in Nicaragua during the 1920’s, and how her dad became enraged, and wrote the U.S. president, at the time Calvin Coolidge, to tell him what he thought. Here now is his letter, which my grandma came across only a few weeks ago:

Dear Mr. President,

According to dispatches of today, Jan. 3, from Nicaragua, my son, 1SG John F. Hemphill, was killed in action against General Saudino’s loyal troops.

For the death of my son I hold no malice or ill will toward Gen. Saudino or any of his men, for I think (and I believe 90 percent of our people agree with me) that they are to-day fighting for their liberty, as our forefathers fought for our liberty in 1776 and that we, as a nation, have no legal or moral right to be murdering those liberty loving people in a war of aggression. What we are doing is nothing less than murder for the sole purpose of keeping in power a puppet President and acting as a collector for Wall Street, which is certainly against the spirit and letter of our Constituition.

My son was 29 years old, served 3 years of his third enlistment, survived honorable service through the world war against Germany, only to be officially murdered in a disgraceful war against this little nation.

My father served through the Civil War, my two grandfathers died in action in the same war and I am proud of their records, so this is not from the pen of a radical, but from one who loves justice and fair play.

I have four sons and if necessity arose I would be willing to sacrifice not only all four sons but my own life as well in a war of defense, but I’m not willing to shed one drop of blood in a war of aggression, such as this one is.

You have lost a son and know the sorrow, and we as a nation mourned with you in your hour of grief. Suppose that son had fallen, as my son has, a victim to the greed of Wall Street, would you feel that the financial gain was worth the cost?

Respectfully, JNO S. Hemphill PS. I am asking the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to print this as an open letter to you.

When I read this for the first time, I couldn’t help but crying. Because through this letter, I can’t help but feel that my great-grandfather would be proud of what I’m going through, and could relate with me on many levels. I feel that reading this somehow connected me again to a part of my family that I haven’t been close to much lately, and I’m thankful for that. I also feel more now, than ever, that as a veteran, it is my obligation to speak out when I feel that an injustice is being done in our country today through this so-called War on Terrorism. The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq is now 2,887. And that number will continue to increase until the troops are out of Iraq. The election that recently passed showed the President and the rest of D.C. that the voters are tired of this war, among other things, and the Democrats must now show that they are more than just talk. They must take action in accordance with what the people who voted them in believe. I’m pessimistic of how much they can really do. The people of this country are the ones with the real power. Not the politicians. We don’t serve them. They serve us. Keep pressure on Washington D.C. politicians to make sure that they look out for us for once, instead of just looking out for themselves as they always have. If they don’t, call ’em out. This letter that my great-grandfather wrote showed me that there are many people in the world and our nation today who forget about the lessons learned from past generations’ experiences. I feel that I could take this same letter, change Nicaragua to Iraq, write about some friends of mine instead of a son, send it to the president, and achieve the same result. Nicaragua is Iraq. Every war is different. Every war is the same. WE MUST LEARN FROM PAST MISTAKES TO AVOID FUTURE MISTAKES! I’m proud to be a member of a family of veterans, and feel that through my actions, I am making my great-grandfather, and the rest of my family, proud. Peace out till next time inspiration hits.


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