The writer, from Omaha, is a U.S. Marine corporal serving in the Pacific, assisting with the disaster relief effort. He wrote this letter to his family in Bellevue. His father, Ken, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, shared it with World-Herald readers.
Things are good for me here close to Manila. We are providing the main communications support for the command element that organizes the entire disaster relief effort. I got a chance to meet and speak with the general who I heard was overseeing the entire international effort. He congratulated me on being a Marine.
They have quite an international relief effort on the island. By assisting in the video teleconferencing link, I get to see what’s going on. A lot of elements have to get coordinated in this effort. Gives a sense of importance in our mission.
Saw the headlines of the New York Times about the disaster the other day. There are still people who don’t have food and medical supplies. Gives a sense of gravity to the situation.
I had a couple of sleepless nights the first couple of days of this operation. We got comm up, though, and I played a critical role in the operation. Now they have me on 15-hour shifts, which is starting to exhaust me. Have to get my body used to it.
Tonight, toward the end of my shift, I leave the tent to go to the command center, walking across the street in a Filipino neighborhood, and an adolescent cat comes and rubs against my leg. I enjoy the moment of shared comfort with her and try to carry on my way. But she keeps with me, and I have to step lightly to avoid squishing her with my boots. She follows me all the way to the crossing point, and I pet her a little more before walking away.
After five steps, I look back and she is sitting there looking at me. Go five more and she is still waiting. After 20 steps and about as far as I can see at night after a long day, I still make out the image of her sitting there looking at me, wondering where I am going. I realize there is probably no more efficacious activity I could be doing than comforting this cat.
I thought back to a scene in “The Champ,” remembered an old friend’s advice never to let down a child who has only ex- perienced people letting her down, and figured that I was here on a diplomatic mission. The cat was happy to see me.
We walked awkwardly back to my tent, and she helped me post Entry Control Point duty for the next hour and a half. As we walked back, a Filipino neighbor laughed at us and said the cat must be hungry. I thought, heck, I have an MRE, I can solve this problem.
I go to get the MRE and was happy to see her waiting for me when I got back. I opened up the main meal, some pasta or something, not a bad one. I tried to let the cat smell the food but she was not interested. I poured some out on the ground for her, but she still just kept rubbing against my leg. Knowing that she would have some of the food there for later if she needed it, I go back to ECP with her.
It seemed that she needed attention, love and someone to comfort her more than she needed food. I wondered if this event was a mirror image of the disaster relief effort. Maybe these people need to know that the world cares for them and wants to help just as much or more as needing food.
And as I petted the little kitty and made her world a little better, I felt how much she made my life feel better. And this enlightenment added a sense of fulfillment to the mission.
Send you all my love and good energies — Dax.