I love the letter Chief Dave writes to Lt Engel’s son in Act of Valor. It starts in the beginning and becomes the voice over to end the movie. It’s stellar and definitely strikes all the right notes with me. There’s much in here that I am striving to perfect in myself. Enjoy.
Before my father died, he said the worst thing about growing old was that other men stop seeing you as dangerous. I’ve always remembered that – how being dangerous was sacred, a badge of honor. You live your life by a code, an ethos. Every man does. It’s your shoreline. It’s what guides you home, and trust me, you’re always trying to get home. Your father was a reader – Churchill, of course, but also Faulkner and books about Tecumseh. He loved artists who painted people with bodies that looked like boxes. I’d give him hell about that. He just say you gotta look harder. “Look harder,” your father would say. I always knew he wasn’t just talking about those boxy abstract paintings. There’s threats everywhere in a world that’s draped in camouflage. Your father’s grandfather gave up his life flying a B-24 in World War 2. He kept the Liberator aloft just long enough for everyone to jump and then he went down with the plane. That’s the blood coursing in your veins…
Your father was a good man. Growing up without him is going be hard. It’s going to hurt. You’ll feel alone, out to sea with no shore in sight. You’ll wonder “Why me?” “Why him?” Remember, you have warrior’s blood in your veins. The code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect. Put your pain in a box. Lock it down. Like those people in the paintings your father liked, we are men made up of boxes: chambers of loss, triumph, of hurt and hope and love. No one is stronger or more dangerous than a man who can harness his emotions, his past. Use it as fuel, as ammunition, as ink to write the most important letter of your life. Before your father died he asked me to give you this poem by Tecumseh. I told him I’d fold it into a paper airplane, and in a way I guess that’s what I’m doing – sailing it from him to you.
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion
Respect others in their view
And demand that they respect yours
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend
Even a stranger when in a lonely place
Show respect to all people and grovel to none
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself
Abuse no one and nothing
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision
When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death
So that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way
Sing your death song
And die like a hero going home