Peter carried out his late father’s wish to adorn his grave with the national flag after his death, but while attempting to drape it over the cross on it, Peter noticed an envelope stuck behind it. After inspecting the contents, he made a life-changing decision that surprised his entire family, especially his mother, until Peter revealed what was inside.
All three generations of men in Peter’s family had served in the US Army, but unfortunately, they never made it home alive after the wars. Peter’s great grandfather had lost his life when his military base was bombed, his grandfather had succumbed to a severe injury during World War II, and Peter’s father, Andrew, who was a member of the special forces, didn’t make it alive either.
As an 8-year-old, Peter was too young to accept that his father would never return, so his mother Elsa waited to tell him until he was older to process everything. And when he was 11 years old, she eventually took him to Andrew’s grave.
As Peter stood there, he remembered sitting at his father’s bedside in the hospital three years ago, promising him that he would become a brave soldier just like him. Andrew had smiled at him that day, and that was the last time he had ever smiled.
Fast forward to the present day, when Peter went to see his father, he sat on his knees by his grave and muttered a brief prayer. “I won’t cry, dad,” he said when he was done. “I am strong. I know times had been difficult for you as well, but you never showed it to us, and you never cried in front of us, so I won’t cry either.”
Suddenly, Elsa saw Peter pull out something from his backpack. It was Andrew’s military cap and the flag of the United States of America. Peter hung the flag on the cross erected on his grave, donned Andrew’s cap, and saluted him. “In honor of Captain Andrew Wilson,” he remarked proudly before returning to his teary-eyed mother standing behind him.
“Peter, honey,” Elsa said. “I didn’t know you brought daddy’s cap and the flag here. Why did you bring them with you?”
“Dad wanted me to do this,” Peter said. “When he was in the hospital, he asked me to bring the flag to his grave. He said he would be proud of me if I could do that for him.”
Elsa could hardly keep her tears in check at this point. “Well then, honey,” she said, wiping her tears. “Why don’t you secure the flag on the cross so the wind doesn’t blow it away.”
Peter tied a portion of the flag around the cross to make sure it stayed in place. Then his hands felt a bulge behind the cross. It was a waterproof bag with an envelope stuck to it. “Open only when you’re 16, Wilson Jr. With love, dad,” were the words outside the envelope. It was written in Andrew’s handwriting.
“What’s that, honey?” Peter’s mom called out when she saw him holding the bag.
“Nothing, mom,” Peter answered as he went over to her, hiding the note in his backpack.
Five years passed. Peter was already preparing himself to enlist in the army at this point. He had spent all of his time studying military affairs and doing rigorous physical training so that he would stand by his words and become a soldier like his father. But everything changed on his birthday…
The first thing Peter did on the morning of his birthday was to pick up the envelope from his drawer. Countless times in the past, he felt the urge to open it, but he fought those urges and patiently waited until that day.
He opened the letter and began to read it, and by the end, he was in a fix, wondering how he’d break the news to his family that he’d changed his mind about becoming a soldier.
Nevertheless, he got ready and went downstairs, where his grandmother, Vivi, and other relatives were seated at the table with a huge cake, one of those fondant ones decorated like a battleground with a soldier holding a rifle and aiming somewhere in the air. “Happy 16th Birthday, Soldier.” The writing on the cake read.
“Let’s wish Peter success so he achieves his dreams and becomes a great soldier!” cried Grandma Vivi, raising her glass of wine. “A very happy birthday, honey!”
Peter frowned as he took a seat. “Thank you, Gran, but I’m not going to be a soldier. I’ve changed my mind.”
“What?” Grandma Vivi almost dropped the wine glass, and everyone else was too stunned to speak.
“What’s wrong, Peter?” Elsa asked, concerned. “You’ve been preparing for this for years. You’re just a year away from enlisting yourself. What happened all of a sudden?”
“I know I kind of disappointed everyone,” Peter apologized. “But that’s because of dad. I don’t want to become a soldier because of dad.”
“One sec, mom,” he said, pulling out the letter from his pocket. “I want to read something to you guys. It’s actually a letter from dad.”
I know I raised my son to be a brave man one day – to be a soldier, like his grandfather and great grandfather. I know you wanted to become a soldier too, but now I want you to give up that dream.
Most likely, when you find this letter, you’ll still be too young, and you wouldn’t understand me, so I hope you read this when you’re old enough to comprehend it. That’s why when I had asked Uncle Vernon (remember my friend from the army?) to leave this letter for you at my gravesite, I left a note that you read this when you turn 16.
Peter, while I know it’s a matter of great valor for every soldier to serve their nation, I also know that war brings nothing but deep agony and anguish to both sides involved. People lose their homes, their families, and eventually their lives.
We must recognize that war is never a solution to any problem. War is an evil that only causes misery and suffering. Remember that the word will always triumph over force. If two parties can reach an agreement, disputes will never emerge, and there will be no war. So, son, I would rather you become a negotiator for peace to prevent battles from ever occurring. I’m hoping you won’t turn me down, Peter. Dad has always loved you and is proud of you.
Captain Andrew Wilson.”
When Peter finished reading the letter, he proudly looked at his mother and said, “A negotiator. That’s what I’ll become, mom. That’s what dad wants me to become too.”
Elsa hugged Peter at this point and couldn’t stop crying. “I don’t know how to put it across, Peter, but Andrew and I couldn’t have raised a better son. I am so proud of you, honey. So proud!”
Peter smiled as he returned his mother’s hug. And he followed through on his resolution to become a negotiator.
Several years down the line, when he finally became one and received his first assignment, he proudly donned his father’s cap and dog tag around his neck and looked in the mirror. “The word will always triumph over force! You can do this, Peter” he assured himself before he proceeded to the negotiation room.
What can we learn from this story?
It is better to resolve disagreements through rational discussions. Hostility should never be an option. As a soldier, Andrew recognized the consequences of war and advised Peter to choose the path of peace rather than violence.
Violence only causes pain and suffering; there can be no winners in a war. Like Peter’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, several soldiers have died while fighting for their country. Their lives could’ve been saved if words were used to resolve conflicts instead of arms.