From Afghanistan, Sam Goodgame Inspires Staples

A few weeks ago, “0688o” posted a request from Sam Goodgame. The 2007 Staples grad — and West Point appointee — is now a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He hoped a couple of Westporters could send a few things to his troops.

Boy, did they.

The response — from individuals and organizations throughout town — was overwhelming.

And Sam’s high school alma mater led the charge.

Staples English teacher Dan Geraghty — a former Army Ranger and National Guardsman — took a special interest in Sam’s mission. Dan enlisted his entire department to help. (Members of the math, world language, physical education, library and culinary departments pitched in too.)

1st Lieutenant Sam Goodgame (right), with one of his soldiers in Afghanistan.

1st Lieutenant Sam Goodgame (right), with one of his soldiers in Afghanistan.

Last week, Sam emailed Dan. Sam’s deep gratitude shines an important light on many things: the amazing work our military men and women do, day in and day out. The importance of a community coming together, to do a tiny bit to help them. The fact that those tiny things mean so much.

And the role that a school like Staples played, in developing a leader like Sam.

Sam talked about every teacher when he said:

Thank you for the profound displays of support that you’ve shown my platoon. They communicate quite effectively to my men that they are valued and remembered by their American community.

After conducting missions in snowy remote provinces, Sam added, the Staples notes meant as much as the packages. “A flourish of personality connects with a soldier better than platitudes. Your letters struck chords with our men.”

Two of Sam Goodgame's men, reading letters from Staples students.

Two of Sam Goodgame’s men, reading letters from Staples students.

Sam attributed his “love of truthful, clear expression — in literature, writing, and in life generally” — to the Staples English department.

“Words are the only thing that last forever, and each of your lessons lives on in me daily.”

Next, Sam turned to the letters the English classes had written. They generated

a lasting sense of comfort (and laughter) with my guys. Perhaps they wouldn’t choose the same words that I do, but your notes do much to close the gap between the US civilian population and its military….The fact that none of you have met my soldiers, yet support them all the same, makes the message stronger.

Then he addressed certain students individually.

He told a girl in Staples Players, “put your whole heart into theater, if you’re passionate about it. It turned out so well for my friends who did the same.”

One boy wondered about weapons. Sam said, “I remember playing Counterstrike as a kid in middle school and thinking the same thing you do.” He described his M4 carbine with an ACOG 4x-power scope, infrared laser, magazine full of tracer rounds and bipod pistol grip.

But then, referring to night vision devices, Sam added, “the guys we fight can’t see anything in the infrared slice of the electromagnetic spectrum. In Afghanistan we actually use a lot of the concepts that you learn about in physics and chemistry to our advantage.”

Letters and packages from Westport have buoyed Sam Goodgame's platoon, thousands of miles away in snowy Afghanistan.

Letters and packages from Westport have buoyed Sam Goodgame’s platoon, thousands of miles away in snowy Afghanistan.

Switching gears, Sam described the importance of writing in his life. “It’s how I persuade people when I want them to do certain things; how I communicate with people I care about, and how I reflect on what’s happening around me and come to understand my own opinions more clearly.”

Sam tried to reach every teenager. To a boy dreaming of the Olympics, he wrote:

If you don’t give up, you have control over what happens to you. I failed Army Ranger school twice before I finally graduated. If I hadn’t passed, I’d be sitting behind a desk right now planning meetings about meetings. I wasn’t going to fail.

And to a boy who had described his upbringing in Asia, Sam wrote, “if I ever visit, I’ll keep your advice about Singapore girlfriends in mind.”

Dan Geraghty ran a half-marathon to support the Wounded Warriors Project. He wore combat boots, and carried his rucksack along the way.    Dan Geraghty ran a half-marathon to support the Wounded Warriors Project. He wore combat boots, and carried a rucksack.

Dan Geraghty ran a half-marathon to support the Wounded Warriors Project. He wore combat boots, and carried his rucksack along the way. 

Sam was thrilled that several students are involved in the Wounded Warriors Project (as is Dan Geraghty).

One is considering West Point. Sam offered help and advice:

Be a good dude. Help people with no expectation of reward. Work out every day, and run 5 miles frequently. Get good grades, but more importantly, pay attention to your best teachers and learn everything you can from them.

Sam’s experience at the Academy was powerful. It exposed him to gifted mentors and world travel, and allowed him to share “conversations, meals and drinks with foreign diplomats and generals, the most powerful CEOs and bankers, and academics whose names will live for centuries.”

More importantly, Sam said, his teachers at West Point helped him learn about academics, the military and life in general. Though “an extremely unpleasant place to live for 4 years,” he wrote, “I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”

Sam’s time at West Point was — like his time at Staples — extremely well spent.

And the time that Staples students spent corresponding with Sam Goodgame is time that he gave right back to them.

In ways that will resonate for years to come.

(Sam’s platoon can always use more cards, letters and care packages. Send to:
1LT Sam Goodgame
PSD  PLT,  HHC 1-187 IN, 3BCT, 101 ABN DIV (AASLT)
FOB Gardez, Afghanistan
APO AE 09339
)

15 responses to “From Afghanistan, Sam Goodgame Inspires Staples

  1. Jamie Walsh

    Heartwarming and such a moral booster! Sam’s an officer who shows tremendous leadership skills and knows what needs to be done to motivate and maintain moral!

  2. Cookies for Our Heroes

    Dan,

    Thank you so much. My daughter is a GS in Norwalk ……. We plan to send Dan and his troop some cookies for our Heroes! What a nice write up.

    Bless them always!

  3. As always you’ve really touched me. I am going to forward the letter to my colleagues (as usual) to see if their students would like to learn a little about letter writing and the world outside of westport! Can’t think of a better way to spend their time.
    Thanks, Bobbi

  4. I am not a Staples student but I am writing Sam a letter today. Do you know what they like most to receive in a package? Thanks, Dan, for bringing Sam to our attention. My sister, the wife and mother of army veterans, is a coordinator in Va., the state with the most veterans, for the Wounded Warrior project and we are supporters.

    • Baked cookies and personal notes have been mentioned before. Anyone else want to chime in with ideas for packages?

  5. Sam is a real trooper to go through Ranger School three times…OMG…once is more than enough. That’s some really tough terrain over there…may the Force be with you, Sam, and your brave soldiers ! 🙂

  6. Dan Geraghty

    Dan … Thank you for supporting Sam and his men.
    I just want to take a moment to “shout out” some names of community members who absolutely flooded my inbox (and office) with letters of support and care packages: Karen Klein, Marjorie Palmer, Carol, Kochefko, Diana Meyer Lowman, Cecily Gans, Susan Skutnik, Gaetano “G” Dileo, Michael Fulton, Christine Radler, Jackie Whiting (who is leading a support effort from Joel Barlow HS), Judy Savitt, Robin Stiles, Anne Fernandez, Julia Roberts, Jim Honeycut, Mike Zito, Maggie Parkhurst, Rebecca Marsick, Chris Garrity, Joyce Eldh, Keara Cogdill (and the WWE!), … and more students than I can name off the top of my head (I hope I didn’t miss any names!). The school leaders at Staples (and all of WPS) are always supportive any efforts to reach out to the community “beyond school walls” … and, in this case, well beyond.

    And because a deep love for the infantry boys especially, I want to share a quote, a great journalist’s take on the men we are supporting: ‎”I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities.” –Ernie Pyle

    Well, Mr. Pyle, we are hoping to lessen the impact of your last sentence.

  7. Alan Beasley

    As a veteran of World War II reaching First Gunner, (Heavy 30 Caliber Machine Gun) I was spared combat, and probably death, by the surrender of Japan. I harbored no doubts about the reason we were in that conflict. Therefore, I have always felt it right to support our troops.

    What I don’t support is our nation’s propensity for waging wars that shouldn’t be entered. These have included a long list of engagements that have not done our nation any good. The last two episodes of war have yet to be concluded. They are the Iraq and the Afghanistan blunders with unjustified deaths on all sides, ours and our allies, and of those countries warred against. It’s tragic that these efforts have taken on a patriotic sheen, as opposed to shame.

    Currently we are seeing the furor traceable to much of the political debate over the deficit. These war costs, will amount to about $5 Trillion Dollars. And the costs will continue for the damages done to our personell in these conflicts for another fifty to sixty years.

    • Thank you for your service Mr Beasley. I don’t think this article is about the war, it’s about the servicemen and women, and Sam Goodgame, Westport’s own. No matter how ill advised or unpopular a way may be, our brave servicemen and women deserve our gratitude and praise. Sam Goodgame was at a sleepover for my son’s birthday when he was 11 years old. All the boys were literally hanging from the roof and Sam came downstairs and helped me clean up the basement. He was a wonderful boy and has turned into a wonderful young man. I couldn’t be prouder of him, I’m at work reading this post and it brings tears to my eyes. Bless you Sam and your platoon. Come home safely.

      • Well said, Holly. As a fellow Ranger and Vietnam Veteran with a BSM and CIB, I’m disappointed by so many of my WWII comrades who thought theirs was the only war worth fighting. And so few of them even heard a bullet or a mortar round. As you do properly point out, it’s the soldier and their service we applaud, not what battle they might be in any day. There were many battles in WWII that were quite foolish as well. Thank you for your comments. 🙂

  8. I reposted your story to my blog because of the hometown connection to the charity Wounded Warriors which I’ve supported.

  9. Tom Allen '66

    You’re right, Tom. Peleliu in the Pacific and Market Garden (Holland) were two such costly and pointless campaigns. There were many others in WWII, Korea and Vietnam that were endured by men — and women — determined to do their duty and by fearful loved ones at home. My late dad, a 40-year Westport resident, earned eight battle stars as a platooon leader with the 101st Airborne in WWII, from D Day to Berchtesgaden. If he were alive today he’d be very proud of Sam and his troopers and equally proud of the generous Staples response.

  10. Sam Goodgame

    Thank you all for your kind words. Your support means quite a bit to my soldiers, and it’s moving to see my hometown show up so forcefully in Afghanistan. If you have any questions or digital notes/pictures for my guys that you’d like me to pass along, I can be reached at samuel.goodgame@afghan.swa.army.mil.

    Ne Desit Virtus,

    Sam