If you get to read this, I will have died in defense of my country and all that it stands for–the most honorable and distinguished death a man can die. It was not because I was willing to die for my country, however–I wanted to live for it–just as any other person wants to do. It is foolish and foolhardy to want to die for one’s country, but to live for it is something else.
To live for one’s country is, to my mind, to live a life of service; to–in a small way–help a fellow man occasionally along the way, and generally to be useful and to serve. It also means to me to rise up in all our wrath and with overwhelming power to crush any oppressor of human rights.
That is our job–all of us–as I write this, and I pray God we are wholly successful.
Yes, I would have liked to have lived–to live and share the many blessings and good fortunes that my grandparents bestowed upon me–a fellow never had a better family than mine; but since God has willed otherwise, do not grieve too much dear ones, for life in the other world must be beautiful, and I have lived a life with that in mind all along. I was not afraid to die; you can be assured of that. All along, I prayed that I and others could do our share to keep you safe until we returned. I pray again that you are safe, even though some of us do not return.
I made my choice, dear ones. I volunteered in the Armed Forces because I thought that I might be able to help this great country of ours in it’s hours of darkness and need–the country that means more to me than life itself–if I have done that, then I can rest in peace, for I will have done my share to make the world a better place in which to live. Maybe when the lights go on again all over the world, free people can be happy and gay again.
Through good fortune and the grace of God, I was chosen a leader–an honor that meant more to me than any of you will ever know. If I failed as a leader, and I pray to God I didn’t, it was not because I did not try. God alone knows how I worked and slaved to make myself a worthy leader of these magnificent men, and I feel assured that my work has paid dividends–in personal satisfaction, if nothing else.
As I said a couple of times in my letters home “when you remember me in your prayers, remember to pray that I be given strength, character and courage to lead these magnificent Americans.” I said that in all sincerity and I hope I have proved worthy of their faith, trust and confidence.
I guess I have always appeared as pretty much of a queer cuss to all of you. If I seemed strange at times, it was because I had weighty responsibilities that preyed on my mind and wouldn’t let me slack up to be human–like I so wanted to be. I felt so unworthy, at times, of the great trust my country had put in me, that I simply had to keep plugging to satisfy my own self that I was worthy of that trust. I have not, at the time of writing this, done that, and I suppose I never will.
I do not try to set myself on a pedestal as a martyr. Every Joe Doe who shouldered a rifle made a similar sacrifice–but I do want to point out that the uppermost thought in my mind all along was service to the cause, and I hope you all felt the same way about it.
When you remember me, remember me as a fond admirer of all of you, for I thought so much of you and loved you with all my heart. My wish for all of you is that you get along well together and prosper–not in money– but in happiness, for happiness is something that all the money in the world can’t buy.
Try to live a life of service–to help someone where you are or whatever you may be–take it from me; you can get happiness out of that, more than anything in life.
Henry T. Waskow
Saturday, December 26, 1942