Leif rarely wrote long emails or sent letters to politicians, but there were occasions when he was sufficiently aroused and incensed to do so. The day after his 29th birthday was one of those occasions when he was moved to send a long, passionate letter to Kansas Senator Brownback.
Anyone who knew Leif knows how much he enjoyed beer and Leif well knew how much his soldier comrades in arms enjoyed them, too. It was his passion about what they enjoyed, and what he felt was a demeaning injustice that moved him to write.
The photo of him with the beer stein was taken at a family gathering on July 29, 2004, exactly six months after he wrote this.
From: "Leif Garretson"
Date: Thu Jan 29, 2004 23:56:07 US/Central
Subject: 18 old enough?
Dear Senator Brownback,
I am writing to you after years of stewing but have been driven by a moment of livid inspiration. I will admit that at the time I am writing this I am a bit intoxicated. However, that should have little bearing on the validity of my claim, a claim that has to do with the very right of certain Americans to enjoy such pleasures. I am Veteran. I served in the US Army infantry, 2nd batallion, 87th INF, out of Ft Drum New York. I spent time in Bosnia and the Middle East. I served my coutry with pride until I was medically retired for asthma in 2001. I still have several friends on active duty. Many of whom are being sent to Iraq.
Another important fact is that Yesterday was my 29th Birthday. This is significant in my mind because many people petition for laws or policies that affect them but few campaign for others. In this case I do campaign for others and I do so out of a matter of principal and justice not out of a desire for self gain.
So what has me writing to you tonight? Well, I was at my father's house tonight, who is also a 24 year veteran of the US ARMY and we were watching the Channel 11 News Hour with Jim Lehrer, or whatever it is. I am not sure. The point being that they displayed the Honor Roll of servicemen that died in Iraq today.
The first man listed, whose name I regrettably do not remember, yet who I Salute none the less, was 20 years old. This upset me and I will not equivocate when I say that I felt a flush of emotion that frankly pissed me off.
This was a MAN!! With a capital M. A service MAN!!! A MAN that volunteered to serve his country. A MAN that was sent to war by his president. A MAN that was old enough to VOTE for that president. A MAN that was considered old enough to carry an automatic weapon. A MAN that was entrusted with the lives of his fellow soldiers. A MAN that was trusted with thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars of equipment. Yet this MAN could not be trusted to have a beer at the local pub with his squad mates.
HOW WRONG IS THAT????
Our country considers him enough of a man to enlist. Enough of a man to fight for his country. Enough of a man to leave his loved ones behind at the will of our president. Enough of a man to carry a machinegun. Enough of a man to kill in the name of America. Enough of a man to DIE!!! in the name of America.!!!! Yet we do not consider him enough of a man to decide if he can have a drink? We trust him to decide if a living human being lives or dies in Iraq per the Rules of Engagement but we do not trust him to decide if he can have a Budweiser after work.
I am well of age to drink myself. This no longer affects me. But nevertheless I find this morally objectionable to think that MEN have died for this country that could not even have beer with their unit before they deployed. That there are men today that are lying wounded in VA hospitals that are not old enough to have a drink when they are released. But they were old enough to take a bullet for the good ole' USA.
I find it hypocritical and morally reprehensible for us to allow these men to go to war, to their deaths, for a country that claims they are not mature enough to buy themselves a beer when they are old enough to die to protect your freedom and mine. These MEN defend our freedoms to enjoy ourselves and the idea that these MEN should not enjoy the very freedoms that they purchase for us at the cost of their very lives is morally reprehensible.
Therefore I ask that you, Senator, propose a bill that would lower the drinking age to 18 years of age. If a Man or woman is old enough to go to war and to kill and die for this country, they certainly should be old enought to enjoy a drink before they do so. Those of us "of Age" that sit here safe in America can do so when we choose, thankful that we are not across an ocean sweating in the sand. Yet no small number of men over there defending our right to do so do not share that same right. And that, Dear Senator, is Wrong.