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.