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A Thank-You Letter in This Time of War

By Orson Scott Card November 21, 2004
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC

This Thanksgiving there are thousands of people I have never met, to whom I owe a debt that cannot be repaid.

To you, Marine, still weary from the battle house to house in Fallujah, whom we called upon to overcome your natural fear and go into combat in our cause: What went through your mind and heart in those days of fighting is between you and your fellow soldiers and the God who knows your heart as no mortal being can. All I can see is the outward deed -- the courage to act on someone else's orders, in protection of someone else's life, at risk of your own.

To all you soldiers, sailors, pilots, marines who have served under fire, at risk of life, volunteers in the American cause: You carry with you painful memories so that countless civilians back home will not have such memories; the vast majority of your fellow-citizens remain innocent of the agony of war precisely because you have been willing to immerse yourselves in it.

You create and maintain the safe haven in which I live. Thank you.

To you in the reserve and national guard, who came when you were called and set aside your lives and left behind your families for months and sometimes years of service you did not hope for ...

To you whose military service is not in combat, yet who labor to make sure that our troops are well supplied, well trained, and only put at risk when there is a goal to achieve that is worthy of the sacrifice of life ...

To you civilians who, unarmed, have braved the dangers of war in order to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, and restore their ability to live in peace and plenty ...

You make our nation possible, our whole world safer. Thank you.

To you policemen and firemen here at home whose vigilance protects us from dangers natural and deliberate, from barbarians foreign and domestic, and from our own foolish mistakes: Each day at work you don't expect to risk your life, but that risk is always there; and your constant vigilance is our protection. Thank you.

To you, the Iraqi soldier, newly trained in an army that was under fire from the moment you first stepped into a recruiting line: You know that your own families are at risk because of your service; that while you fight to liberate a part of your country from terrorists and thugs, others might come to your own home and assault your own family to punish you. You and I are patriots in different countries, but today we share a cause, and if your country keeps the freedom our soldiers have tried to bring you, it will be because of your own steadfastness and courage and sacrifice.

To you, the Iraqi policeman, who has had to learn new rules: The civilization of your own people is in your hands. You are teaching your people that the day of the torturers is past, so that they will look to you for protection, instead of dreading your approach; and you do it despite knowing that the barbarians will try to punish you and your family for your service in that cause.

To all the Iraqi and Afghan citizens who understand that American soldiers are only in your country until you have soldiers and police and a government that can be trusted to do your will and keep you free and safe: Your cooperation hastens the day when our soldiers can come home, a day we long for every bit as much as you. Your votes in elections; your obedience to law; they are also acts of courage and determination, and the whole world is safer because of them.

I salute you; I thank you.

And to you, the American soldier who has been torn by bombs or bullets, who came home maimed in body or in spirit by this war: I cannot restore to you what you have lost, but I will try to show you by my personal treatment of you, by contributions I make and the votes I cast in support of meeting your needs, by the honor that I give to you, and by the free and decent society that I will try to maintain, that the country that you served was worthy of the price you paid and will continue to pay all the days of your life.

Thank you.

You, the family whose child did not come home alive; you who have buried the hopes and dreams you had for that child's life; how can I comfort you? Except to tell you that the lives of all the children who have not died, whose future was not broken off by war, belong in part to you, because of the sacrifice you made.

I may not have known your lost sons and daughters, but I know why they died, and I love them for their sacrifice, and will not forget them; nor will I forget you, and the constant ache that will be with you for the rest of your lives.

I believe that in the eyes of God you are all held in honor; I know that in my own eyes, your suffering and sacrifice are gifts to your neighbors, to your nation, to all civilized people, whether or not they understand. I hope it helps sustain you, to know that I and many others like me are grateful to you and to the loved one you have lost.

On Thanksgiving day, family and friends will gather around a table in my home and give thanks to God for all the good things in our lives. Our home, our neighborhood, our city will mostly be at peace; there will be laughter and pleasure in our house, as well as solemnity and prayer.

Yet we will not forget you, none of you who have served us in this struggle. I promise that we will remember: You have been the hands of God in bringing this much more freedom, this much more hope of peace and justice to God's children, not only in your native land, but also among strangers.

No one has greater love than this: to lay down your life for your friends.

For that love, for your love, I give thanks.