HBO / Life
updated 11/26/2004 3:17:01 PM ET 2004-11-26T20:17:01

Whether you're Republican or Democrat, against or for the war in Iraq, one thing is certain: The men and women who fight our wars deserve the best America has to offer. In tribute this Veterans Day, friends and families read the final words of some of these brave people who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq in a documentary called "Last Letters Home" which aired on HBO.

Bob Sullivan, the book's editor joined MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Nov. 11. Cathy Heighter, mother of PFC Raheen Heighter also joins the show. Raheen's letter is featured in the documentary. He was killed when his military convoy came under enemy attack.  Since Raheen’s death, his mother has become active in the Intrepid Fund’s efforts to aid the families of fallen soldiers. 

From the troops’ hometowns, family members of eight men and two women share and read aloud their loved ones’ moving and eloquent letters, which tragically turned out to be their last.  The words are powerful, complex and often poetic personal expressions from the front that serve as lasting memorials to the spirit and humanity of the brave men and women who were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

In an effort to reach as many viewers as possible, HBO and participating cable and satellite affiliates will open the signal during the telecast.

The letters provide a unique look inside the war in Iraq, with personal stories ranging from relaxed e-mails sharing excitement over the capture of SaddamHussein to tender, handwritten messages in honor of Mother’s Day, to love letters to be opened only in the event of death. 

“These letters put a human face on the cost of war,” says the film's director Bill Couturié.  “A soldier’s perspective provides a totally different take on war from a journalist’s.  That intimacy can never be replicated in traditional reportage.”

Letters include:

Army Private First Class Jesse Givens to his wife Melissa: 
“Teach our babies to live life to the fullest, tell yourself to do the same.  I will be there with you, Melissa.  I will always want you, need you, love you, in my heart, my mind and in my soul.  Do me a favor, after you tuck in Toad and Bean and give them hugs and kisses from me:  Go outside.  Look at the stars and count them.  Don’t forget to smile.”

Army Specialist Michelle Witmer, writing about herself to her father: 
“She pondered how this year had changed her perspective on life, culture, war, and things worth dying for.  She began to think about her many experiences.  Some would call them adventures, some nightmares, but she preferred to think of them as spices that gave the story of her life richer flavors and saucier smells.  Yes, her life had definitely gone from TV dinners to world cuisine.  ‘Maybe someday I’ll write a book about this,’ she thought to herself.”

Second Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd to his wife Sarah: 
“Some of these guys out here, Sarah, they are just kids.  If you saw them walking down the street, you would think they belong in the arcade at a movie theater, hanging out with their friends, getting in trouble, doing stuff kids do – not putting their lives on the line, every second of every day.”

The book includes family portraits photographed by Dana Lixenberg, as well as a foreword by Sen. John McCain.

LIFE and HBO’s net proceeds from the book and DVD will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides unrestricted grants to the families of military personnel who have given their lives in the current operations.


Discussion comments