Soldier's Letter Inspires, Reminds Us Of True American Values

Army veteran Jeffrey H. Smith, former general counsel of the CIA, shared a letter from his father in The Washington Post that serves as a reminder of American values and that keeping things simple can lead to a more content life.

Smith shared the letter on Veterans Day. His father shared the advice after finding a typewriter in Germany in 1945, when he was a captain in the Army and fighting in World War II.

His father proudly expressed the benefits of being an American, despite the chaos around him.

"I am glad for your sake that you were born an American, and, as you grow older, you will realize how many advantages and limitless opportunities lie before you. . . . Our country is not spotless or above reproach, but the precepts upon which it was founded still rule, and the fundamental conception of freedom, justice, equality, rights and religion make it a land of opportunity," the letter read.

“I have seen enough of the world to know what all that means now. Before this experience, I was taking it for granted and did not realize what it would mean not to have it.”

His father encouraged Smith to practice "obedience, truthfulness, kindness, sincerity, tolerance, fruitfulness, and respect for other people’s rights.”

That theme continued.

"Learn to love beauty, wherever you find it, music, scenery, books, anything," his father wrote. "Develop an inquisitive mind and always remember education is a never ending process. Culture is not a feminine word or a sissy trait. . . . Respect money for what it can do for you, but realize its limitations. Beyond a certain point it adds nothing to life. Never confuse ambition with greed.”

Smith likely shared the letter because it was a day to celebrate the men and women who risk their lives for freedom and human rights. It also expresses some of the reasons that our servicemen and women do what they do.

But the letter is mostly a good reminder of what really matters, and it comes during a year that can sometimes feel like it's gotten away from us.