Letter to Terri Schiavo from a Marine who fought in Vietnam

March 24th, 2005

Dear Terri,

You don’t know me and you never will. Unfortunately, I know a lot more about you than you could have ever imagined. I am not alone; there are millions of your fellow Americans who can say the same thing. The information I have been given about you is intimate, conflicting and disturbing. I try not to think about you, but the stories about you appear everywhere I look.

The more I learn, the more confused I become. The facts surrounding your situation are complex and hard to grasp. They have been reviewed, analyzed and parsed by every conceivable outlet, agency and personality.

I have strived to get to the heart of it. Look for the critical thought paths and logic. Seek the building blocks of reason from which I can take a strong, immutable position.

I have listened to Constitutional experts from Georgetown University Law School. These are not light weights and I always admire the intellectual horsepower they demonstrate by analyzing very complex legal issues and defining them in lucid, easy-to-understand terms.

Somehow, their explanations in your case leave me cold and unsatisfied. I am not at all certain we have done the right thing here. I accept that we are a nation of laws deeply embedded in and flowing from our Constitutional heritage. I understand the inherent tension between federal intervention and states rights. But something gnaws at my psyche like an ulcerous sore. It seems as though we may be technically and narrowly correct in the adjudication of your situation, but in doing so, have lost sight of a greater good and a time honored tradition of going to the assistance of those whose lives are in jeopardy.

Many years ago, I was sent to a place called Vietnam. Many others went there as well. It was difficult and filled with instances in which Americans were wounded and for brief periods of time were totally incapable of taking care of themselves. Without hesitation, their comrades sprang to their defense and rescue. Many of the rescuers lost their lives in the effort or were seriously wounded. There was a deep bond among all of us that said if you were hurt, I will be there to help you. Count on it. It was that trust that made going into harm’s way more comfortable and reassuring. It was trust, Terri, that absent my own ability to decide my fate, I could count on others to give me a second chance.

The men and women who participated in these efforts could have hidden behind the rules and the process that said they shouldn’t do it because it was too risky. No one would have blamed them. But, they didn’t. They stepped out bravely and put themselves on the line and saved lives that surely would have been lost. They showed leadership and courage and took great risks. Their efforts are what help define our American culture.

You see, Terri, this is my experience with protecting life. If there’s hope, if there’s a chance, if there’s a way then we should step into the fray and make it happen. The technocrats will always be there to criticize the efforts. They will sight laws and precedent and opinions. They always do. In Vietnam, they would have been the ones who said that the weather was too bad for the evacuation helicopter to fly into the landing zone where a young soldier or Marine was dying. Despite their pessimism, a brave air crew took off, rescued them and saved lives that were surely lost if they had listened to the pundits.

That’s what sticks in my craw, Terri. Globally, we seem willing to commit American lives to protect and save lives elsewhere, but right here under our noses, we lack the courage to step from behind the technical interpretation of law and personally ensure that everything has been done to protect yours. Just days ago, they ruled that your feeding tubes were to be removed.

Terri, I am a Dad and a grandfather. I try to imagine what it would be like for me if one of my three beautiful daughters were in your place. I try to imagine watching those tubes being removed and being powerless to stop it. I try to imagine what I would feel seeing you deteriorate each day as your body slowly shuts down because someone who probably never stood by your bedside, looking down into your eyes made a purely legal call.

I know that I would be incarcerated now, because I would force my way into your room, and hold you and hug you and cry the tears of utter despair as the flesh of my flesh slipped from my life; and it was all …so legal. I would be restrained firmly and gently by security guards, the ambivalence of their orders etched on their faces, as they dragged me from your room.

Soon, Terri, you will be delivered from all this. You will find peace in a place where the purpose of your life is not restricted by the laws of man nor debated by those who have chosen to ignore the primacy of life. You will be whole and beautiful again. When you reach that place, pray for us and forgive us.

Rest in peace, Child of God.

Semper Fidelis,

Dave St. John

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: mail@priestsforlife.org