Beth Siegel was cleaning out her late father's papers in June when she stumbled upon a typewritten letter — and the words are perhaps even more relevant today than they they were in 1945.
Jacob "Jack" Siegel served as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Forces during WWII, and when he was discharged he was given the letter, which his family believes was only for officers. The text of it warns of the dangers of "false leaders" and "hate and intolerance."
Siegel's granddaughter, Emma Kornetsky recognized the eerie pertinence of the letter and posted it to Facebook. "The message resonates strongly today and is worth repeating," she wrote.
"You are being discharged from the Army today — from your Army," the letter begins. "You have seen, in the lands where you worked and fought and where many of your comrades died, what happens when the people of a nation lose interest in their government. You have seen what happens when they follow false leaders. You have seen what happens when a nation accepts hate and intolerance."
The letter warns that voting and engagement with both local and national politics are the only ways to protect the U.S. from "what happened in Europe and in Asia," and that "NO American can afford to be disinterested in any part of his government."
The letter also cautions those returning to civilian life to "choose your leaders wisely — that is the way to keep ours the country for which you fought. Make sure that those leaders are determined to maintain peace throughout the world. You know what war is. You know that we must not have another."
The letter seems especially meaningful in the midst of the chaos that is Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign for president. This week it was reported that Trump, who has stirred up both hate and intolerance over the course of his campaign, asked a foreign policy expert why the U.S. couldn't just use nuclear weapons.
Beth Siegel described her father as an "an incredibly warm man that all his children and grandchildren and nephews and nieces and grandnephews and nieces adored." He died in 2011, at the age of 94 — but he held onto this letter for the rest of his life.
See the full text below:
You are being discharged from the Army today — from your Army. It is your Army because your skill and your patriotism, your labor and courage and devotion have been some of the factors which make it great. You have been a member of the finest military team in history. You have accomplished miracles in battle and supply. Your country is proud of you, and you have every right to be proud of yourselves.
You have seen, in the lands where you worked and fought and where many of your comrades died, what happens when the people of a nation lose interest in their government. You have seen what happens when they follow false leaders. You have seen what happens when a nation accepts hate and intolerance.
We all are determined that what happened in Europe and in Asia must not happen to our country. Back in civilian life you will find that your generation will be called upon to guide our country's destiny. Opportunity for leadership is yours. The responsibility is yours. The nation which depended on your courage and stamina to protect it from its enemies now expects you as individuals to claim your right of leadership, a right which you earned honorably and which is well deserved.
Start being a leader as soon as you put on your civilian clothes. If you see intolerance and hate, speak out against them. Make your individual voices heard, not for selfish things, but for honor and decency among men, for the rights of all people.
Remember, too, that NO American can afford to be disinterested in any part of his government, whether it is county, city, state or nation.
Choose your leaders wisely — that is the way to keep ours the country for which you fought. Make sure that those leaders are determined to maintain peace throughout the world. You know what war is. You know that we must not have another. As individuals you can prevent it if you give to the task which lies ahead the same spirit which you displayed in uniform.
Accept that trust and the challenge which it carries. I know that the people of America are counting on you. I know that you will not let them down.
Goodbye to each and every one of you, and to each and every one of you good luck!
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