Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President,

I know you are a very busy man with many things on your mind, so I will try to be brief.

Since the day it began, I have been an unwavering supporter of your military response to 9/11. While I deeply hate war (as I believe every good human being should), I understand that there are times when it is a required course of action. I believe that maintaining our military readiness is a primary key to remaining a strong and powerful and, yes, a safe nation. I hope and pray that the United States will always be “the most powerful country in the world” because I believe that we have been blessed with the very best form of government—representative democracy and I believe in the power of the voice of one citizen to be heard by her President, her elected representatives and her country.

It’s with that belief in my heart that I write to you today. While I supported a military response to the attacks on America, I want to be clear with you that my continued support now comes with a very personal investment--specifically, the life of my little brother, PFC James Andrew Burnett, serving in the United States Army.

On Thanksgiving Day 2005, my 19 year old brother announced that he had decided to join the Army. By June, I was attending his graduation from boot camp and in just a few more days, on the day before Thanksgiving 2006, he will be reporting for duty with the 173rd Airborne as a medic at Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy.

It has been a difficult journey this past year—watching my younger brother become a soldier. At the ripe old age of 20, it seems to me that he’s a little to eager to be in harm’s way and not at all grasping the possible price that could be required of him in the name of freedom. Or maybe he does understand the possiblity, and accepts it better than I do. As an older sister and a mother to my own children, I am filled with fear for him but I am also overcome with pride in the man he is becoming. He will always be my little brother (even though he’s been looking down on me for years now) but now he is a soldier, defending my country with honor and skill and in the name of something I cherish—freedom and liberty.

Sir, I respect your office and your abilities. I pray that you are surrounded by wise and valued advisors who are worthy of the trust you place in them. I trust that you already know that every single military decision you make is felt deeply by the many concerned citizens who love someone currently serving in the military.

I hope and pray that the significance of your every military decision weighs appropriately heavy upon you every single day. Please sir, with all due respect, don’t ever for a single moment forget that our soldiers and their families are very personally invested in your decisions and your direction as Commander in Chief. Our troops may be referenced by numbers but they are far from just a number. They are brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, and husbands and wives and I dare to assume that the great majority are loved deeply as individuals.

The attached photo is my brother. He has hair the color of a California sunset and it was once so thick with curls that I could barely run my hands thru it but of course, it’s high and tight now. He’s always been one to play hard and he has more spunk in his fingers than most people have in their whole body. As a little boy, he loved to dig in the dirt and ride the tire swing. He ran pretty much everywhere he went--nothing slowed him down. He spent a lot of time barefooted and seriously in need of a bath. He loved hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. He loved the swimming pool and the three-wheeler.

He grew up in a small town in Texas, learning early to ride horses, muck stalls and wear boots. He helped my Dad in his handcrafted furniture business and he built many toy guns with the leftover wood pieces. He worked as a stocker and bag boy for the local grocery during high school and became a volunteer firefighter just about the day he was old enough. He is now a fire academy graduate.

He loves his Ford Mustang and he sometimes drives too fast—please don’t tell my mom. He can put away a steak like nobody’s watching. He goes to church on Sundays, he loves the Lord, and he is a good son and grandson. He is an awesome brother. And if you asked my little boys, they would tell you Uncle Andy hangs the moon and flings the stars.

He looks out for our younger sister and swears no man will ever pass muster for her. He enjoys Starbucks and cold pizza and Coca Cola.

Sir, I know you’ll probably never meet my brother, Private Burnett, but I hope that just now, with just these few images and details of his life floating around in your head, you will be reminded that while the cost of protecting freedom and spreading liberty is exorbitant, it’s also very specific.

And never forget that it is, indeed, very personal.

God bless you and guide you, Mr. President.

Sarah Burnett Devendorf
Nashville, Tennessee


Stephanie Jackson said...

So sweet and touching. Made me the tears well up. God bless him!

Stephanie in Memphis

Mimi said...

My prayers with your brother.

Trudi said...

Great letter! Your brother is in my prayers.