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.)
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.”
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.”
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.”
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)