I was introduced to you four years ago by my eldest son, who, at the time, had been listening to your podcasts for a few months. I am writing you this evening because I think that it is important that you receive feedback to help you understand the profoundly positive effect you are having on this world even if it is not always easy to see.
This year West Point’s class will graduate. When they entered West Point there were 1.261 members of this class, including my second son. I do not know exactly how many of those 1,261 will be graduating, but I do know that there will be one fewer graduates than there would have been had it not been for you – and my eldest son.
My eldest son was a student at College when he was introduced to you. Shortly after that my younger son, was accepted to West Point. I will always remember the day he received his acceptance package and my feeling of pride in him. It was just about one year earlier that I first found out that he was interested in the military academies. He made his decision to pursue a military path without the thought ever entering my mind. A teammate of his who had gone to the Naval Academy had sparked his interest. He said to me one night that he could get his education paid for and all he had to do was serve his country for five years. And, he said, “There is nothing wrong with that.” My how things can change.
The best thing about the military academies in the United States is that students do not have to officially commit to the military until the first day of classes of their third year. My older son knew this and after his brother had been at West Point for one year he began his all-out effort to convince him that he had to get out. He started sending things to read, and to his credit, my younger son read everything that was sent. It didn’t take long for my youngest son to become convinced that the war in Afghanistan was wrong in so many ways and he knew for sure that unless someone could convince him otherwise, he would never be able to lead troops into that battle.
My younger son then made it his mission to find someone, anyone, in the army’s leadership who could explain to him why we were fighting in Afghanistan. He tried for about six months. No one even tried to justify it. Everyone he spoke to who had actually been in Afghanistan admitted to him that the morale there amongst the troops was horrible, and that no one felt that we were actually making anything better. Some even admitted that we were causing more problems than we were solving.
So as soon as he finished his final exams at the end of his sophomore year he informed the academy that he was leaving. He then made the mistake of honestly filling out the exit forms regarding his top three reasons for leaving. He cited the war in Afghanistan, the military’s use (misuse) of drones, and the Army’s failure to properly address sexual assault in its ranks.
After taking a year off, my youngest son in back in school and doing quite well. Today, he gets it – as do I. And this is directly a result of his brother finding you. Had you not chosen to do what you are doing I am quite certain that my son would be preparing to graduate from West Point and to embark on a career that would damage himself and others irreparably.
How do I adequately say thank you for that? All I can do right now is say that I am eternally grateful to you for the role you played in this. So for now I will simply say thank you, thank you, thank you."
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