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US Army National Guard 1st Lt. Mark H. Dooley, 27, of Wilmington, Vt.

      Dad, Mom and Charlie;
      It is immensely hard to put into words raw emotion or put down on one piece of paper what you want people to remember you by. However, if you're reading this then I am not able to convey either in person. The best thing I can state is how much I love all three of you. It was only by God's grace that I was born into the family that I proudly call mine. Parents whose unconditional love supported me through times that others would have surely given up, and a brother whose patience and pure heart set the example I could only hope to have imitated.
      The defining points in my life were the times when I had hard realizations that everything Dad had tried to help me avoid came true. Those painful lessons made me the person that I am, and although I had always wanted to change them I knew they all happened for a reason. Pappy, I always tried to think what you would have done, or how you would have handled a situation. The times that I succeeded were the times that I followed your example. My failures were the times that I chose to ignore your solid wisdom. The greatest boast I could ever make was that I was your son.
      Mom, I have no delusions that reading or even hearing this letter read can fill my absence. Please forgive me for not being able to be there; but also remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved, and that most people can't comprehend its scope. Cherish in your heart that it wasn't done for any abstract reason like a flag or a foreign government's success, but our sacred honor. I love you mom, your embracing love and support fueled the fire that burned through the hard times to keep me going. Don't be angry or let sadness dominate your heart, be proud. Remember that we will all be united again, and that God's knowledge is greater than we can understand. Faith insures us that his plan is the right way....
      Charlie, I am so proud of you that it hurts just to think that I won't be there when you continue to grow and shine. God has infinitely blessed the world with your presence. Don't change, just continue to refine. Remember that a good run can make stupid small things disappear, and that a funny movie is time well spent with family and friends. Most of all don't ever let restrictions be put on you, anything is possible. It is the perseverance that most of the world lacks.
      Time will ease pain, and the best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made. Remember time is a gift, use it to enjoy life. My last request is that you continue to live fulfilling happy lives with God's hands holding you safely. I will see you all in God's perfect time …

      With Loving Affection and Endearment,
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