Read Tell My Sons: A Father's Last Letters Online

Authors: Lt Col Mark Weber,Robin Williams

Tell My Sons: A Father's Last Letters

BOOK: Tell My Sons: A Father's Last Letters
10.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“You three boys, along with your father, Mark, have given-names that belonged to men who are surely in God’s ‘Hall of Fame of Faith.’ … None of us knows the challenges we will face, but we know that to meet those challenges, God has a great reservoir of mental, physical, and moral strength for each of us.… Your dad has given you an unadorned look at his courageous use of those reservoirs in meeting the challenges for him and your family. It will surely help you in meeting your own challenges.”

General John W. Vessey, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired), tenth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Mark Weber is a modern-day soldier-statesman who has given us a blueprint for how to build character—an indispensable quality for transformative and sustainable leadership.”

Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate

“A powerful testimony of compassion, conviction, and persistence. Mark is an incredibly talented communicator who has provided us all with an intimate and intellectually gripping perspective on life. He pulls no punches—with his sons, with us, or with himself. With humility and a gift for broaching sobering topics,
Tell My Sons
 … will inspire you to want to be a better human being.”

Cathy L. Greenberg, PhD, coauthor of the
New York Times
What Happy Working Mothers Know
What Happy Women Know

“Lieutenant Colonel Mark Weber has left a proud record of service to his nation, much of which is told in this remarkable book. It is a book not only for Mark’s sons, who can look back on their father’s accomplishments with admiration, but also for anyone who wants to know what a life dedicated to country and family looks like.”

Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. secretary of defense

“Mark Weber’s
Tell My Sons
 … should be entitled
Tell Us All
. This poignant, passionate, and very personal work will deeply move you. Yes, it’s a story for Mark’s sons, but it is much more. Here is one man’s life story, a soldier’s story, that has the wisdom of a life well lived. It’s a great legacy for his sons, but it’s a great legacy for our sons and daughters as well.”

General Richard Myers, U.S. Air Force (Retired), fifteenth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“The Webers have served the U.S. Army and our nation with great distinction, and their recent battle with cancer is no exception. Mark has soldiered on, pouring his great courage, dogged determination, and unflinching humor into the most painful gift a father can give. He has written answers to questions that have yet to be asked, turning personal lessons into a powerful legacy.
Tell My Sons
 … will leave an indelible mark on the hearts of all who read it. Lynne and I are honored to have served with the Weber family; we are inspired by their story, which will continue to inspire for generations to come.”

General Peter Pace, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), sixteenth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“The ancients admired most the man who could face mortality and still tell a great story. They would surely admire Mark Weber. Here you’ll find the truest heroism.”

Jay Heinrichs, author of
Thank You for Arguing

“Mark and Kristin Weber’s courage along their journey of life exemplify the Outward Bound values, ‘To serve, to strive, and not to yield.’ Thanks to this book, his sons won’t be the only ones who benefit from this wonderful gift of mentorship and empowerment.”

Lee Skold, chairman of the board, Outward Bound USA

“Mark has crafted a moving account of pain and suffering turned into joy and wisdom. Through all the hardships and battles, he displays the fighting spirit of a warrior, the steady compassion of a leader, and the unconditional love of a father and husband. His life and his words are an inspiration to me, and they will be an inspiration to you.”

Eric Greitens
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL

Tell My Sons
 … is an inspiring work of great and earthy humanity, full of precious models of wisdom and honest love. Mark’s story reveals the importance of exercising reflective curiosity and empathic imagination in serving with grace, care, and good humor. He has taught me about how honest human beings respond to a life that they allow themselves to love.”

Dr. Ronald Heifetz, founding director, Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University, and author of
Leadership without Easy Answers

“I’ve been around Mark Weber a lot in some incredibly difficult circumstances, and it was not only what he got done, but how he got it done.… It’s not a bad thing when you come across someone who can influence you so profoundly, whether you’re a private first class or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America.… He’s one of the finest leaders I’ve met in my thirty-eight years of service.”

General Martin E. Dempsey, U.S. Army, eighteenth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“The book arrived at a challenging time for me. It is wonderful—equal parts inspirational and sobering. It is a tremendous reminder of the blessings that we all have, regardless of our personal situations.… It was inspirational, at a key moment.”

General David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army (Retired), former director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Copyright © 2012 by Tell My Sons LLC

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

All photographs, unless otherwise specified, are courtesy of the Weber family.

Originally published by Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc.,
in 2012 in slightly different form.

eISBN: 978-1-59298-575-3

Jacket design: Tom McKeveny



We all eventually reach the end of our march. For some of us, the route is long. For others, the path is short. But it’s not the length of the journey that matters as much as the steps we take.

If you discovered disease was about to cut your life short, no one could rightfully judge you for dropping out of line. But for those who refuse to let an incurable illness keep them from doing their duty, for those who keep fighting, for those who live life vigorously and joyfully to the very end, we have names for those people. We call them heroes.

I had the pleasure of working with Mark during a USO tour he helped organize for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2004. At the time, he inspired me in the same way all military personnel do. Everyone who serves their country deserves respect for their personal sacrifice, and they sure get mine. But after learning of his battle with cancer, my respect for Mark grew exponentially.

If war is hell, as they say, then fighting an incurable disease is something altogether worse.

Soldiers can survive wars. Cancer victims in stage IV aren’t usually so fortunate. As the fight continues, the odds dwindle. That can either be a cause for isolation or an opportunity to send a powerful message with whatever life one has left to live. Mark Weber chose the latter. Instead of shutting down, Mark got to
work. He collected his thoughts and stories for his sons, and we’re fortunate he’s left them behind for us all to read.

Lieutenant Colonel Weber marched with purpose, humor, dignity, and grace. This book is about what drove him. It’s a look at who he was, what he believed, and what awaits his sons in their own lives. Reading it might help you advance through this world, too.

May he light the way.

—Robin Williams


Dear Matthew, Joshua, and Noah

I wrote a book for you. I started writing it long before any of you were born, and even before I met your mom, but it was always written for you

When I was twelve years old, my grandma Weber died of a sudden heart attack. As we helped Grandpa go through her things, we came across a letter he wrote to her in August 1944. His work kept them separated, and he was writing to tell her about his job, the weather—no mention of the world war raging across the sea—and how “it seems like it has been a year here without you.” He was playful. He drew several doodles in the margins, one of which was a man sticking out his tongue. He closed the note by telling her how much he enjoyed the roast and the cake she made for him, and then he drew two birds—one for each of his sons at the time

The faded letter looked and felt like an ancient treasure, but what impressed me most was that I had never heard Grandpa talk or act that sweet. He didn’t even remember writing it and said it didn’t sound like him at all. That bugged me. I wanted to know more about Grandma. And I sure wouldn’t want to forget what it was like to write a letter like that

As I grew older, I found that all three of my remaining grandparents were short on details. Of course they had stories, but not always the details I wanted to know about. They couldn’t remember young emotions or reasoning, and they wouldn’t talk about their biggest mistakes or regrets. The questions I had didn’t match the answers they were willing or able to give

I imagined someday I would have grandkids (yes, grandkids) who might be just as interested in me as I was in my grandparents. And so I
started writing a journal, and I kept it brutally honest. Looking back, there’s a lot of stuff I’m really not proud of, but I figure maybe those ugly things reflect my growth through the years. This book comes from that journal

Of course, I imagined one day sharing these stories in person, but now I’m dying, and I realize I might not even get to share it with you boys, let alone with any grandkids

If attitude alone determined survival, I would live another fifty years. Unfortunately, our bodies get a vote, and my forty-year-old frame is giving out way sooner than it should. Despite some breathtaking treatments, I still have cancer, I can’t have any more surgeries, and the chemo is failing. I may look invincible in my army uniform or while cutting down trees with a feeding machine strapped over my shoulder, but to suggest that I’m not dying is just dishonest

So I started thinking about ways to tell you my stories

There’s an eighteen-year-old boy inside of me who sees the three of you quickly approaching the age when I started really thinking about life. That boy stood out on a parade field twenty-three years ago as a day-four enlisted soldier in the army and listened while an unseen narrator passionately recited an adaptation of General Douglas MacArthur’s famous 1962 speech to the cadets of West Point. The words and the accompanying music pulled at the hair on my arms and neck, and I felt tears roll down my cheeks. For the first time—and forever after—I understood life was much bigger than the things that were happening around me

BOOK: Tell My Sons: A Father's Last Letters
10.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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