Not your typ­i­cal war story

War vet­eran who was in­spired by lo­cal teen’s letter two decades ago con­nects with au­thor


It’s De­cem­ber 1990 and a young Duane Mor­gan of Port de Grave lis­tens at­ten­tively as his teacher at Co­ley’s Point El­e­men­tary, Gor­don Stone, is talk­ing about the on­go­ing con­flict in the Mid­dle East. A vast coali­tion of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Canada, has been as­sem­bled and are pre­par­ing to lib­er­ate Kuwait fol­low­ing an in­va­sion by its neigh­bour, Iraq.

Stone gives his young charges an as­sign­ment. They are to each write a letter to Cana­dian mil­i­tary per­son­nel serv­ing in the Per­sian Gulf re­gion.

Duane, age 13, picks up his pen­cil and starts print­ing. De­spite the spell­ing and gram­mat­i­cal er­rors, his heart­felt mes­sage will soon serve as an inspiration to one Cana­dian of­fi­cer.

In fact, it’s a letter that still res­onates to­day — 20 years later — with the even­tual re­cip­i­ent, re­tired air force colonel James Philip Do­herty.

“I car­ried Duane’s letter with me the whole time (in Qatar), as a con­stant re­minder to me that if he re­ally thought that highly of all the Cana­di­ans de­ployed, then I was ab­so­lutely not go­ing to let him down,” Do­herty wrote in an e-mail to The Com­pass last week.

Wanted to say thanks

One day in Fe­bru­ary of this year, on the twen­ti­eth an­niver­sary of the end of the Gulf War, Do­herty, a Mon­treal na­tive, was rem­i­nisc­ing about his ex­pe­ri­ence com­mand­ing 261 main­te­nance per­son­nel in Doha, Qatar. It was their jobs to keep Canada’s fighter squadron mis­sion-ready, and one they did ex­tremely well. Do­herty was awarded a Chief of the Air Staff Com­men­da­tion for lead­er­ship on com­bat op­er­a­tions.

Do­herty said the “sim­ple but pow­er­ful letter” from a New­found­land teen “ brought back fond mem­o­ries for me.” So he set out on a quest to lo­cate and thank the per­son who wrote the letter, and he’s very grat­i­fied at the way it turned out.

James Do­herty is shown next to the space shut­tle At­lantis on the run­way at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2006, shortly af­ter the shut­tle landed fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful mis­sion to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. Do­herty was di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian As­tro­naut Of­fice at the time. Cana­dian as­tro­naut Steve Ma­cLean was a mis­sion spe­cial­ist on the flight.

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