Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Moving Tribute from a West Point Teacher to a Fallen Student: "Man of Letters" by Elizabeth D. Samet

Elizabeth Samet teaches English at West Point to future warriors. She is a civilian. She has learned to relate to and care for the men and women who go abroad to fight our nation's wars. She has written a wonderful book about her West Point experience, "Soldier's Heart," which I reviewed in this Blog in the summer of 2008.

In the current edition of The New Republic, Dr. Samet offers a moving tribute to a fallen warrior who was one of her students:

"Department of Defense News Release No. 093-10, posted on February 3, 2010, announced that two soldiers, Captain Daniel P. Whitten, 28, of Grimes, Iowa, and Private First Class Zachary G. Lovejoy, 20, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 'died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device Feb. 2 in Zabul province, Afghanistan. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.' Capt. Whitten commanded C Company; Pfc. Lovejoy was one of his paratroopers.

Dan Whitten graduated from West Point in 2004. He was my student. Together, we read everything from Montaigne to The Maltese Falcon; we studied His Girl Friday, Citizen Kane, Grand Illusion, and Night and Fog. He was a kind of student I always hope to find in class: someone who keeps the rest of us honest. He was direct, impatient with muddled thinking, yet he delivered his arguments with such wit and humor and from a place of such scrupulousness that no one could justly resent a correction. He wrote a thesis with one of my colleagues on beauty and elegance in scientific theory, but he could be equally engaging on the subject of Braveheart (a film about which we disagreed) or Billy Madison (about which we were in absolute accord). And he made me laugh, which is something I note fewer and fewer people are able to do. He was buried Friday, February 12, 2010, in the West Point cemetery."

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I encourage you to use the link below to continue reading this deeply moving paean to Capt. Whitten, Dr. Samet's "Man of Letters."

The New Republic Article

We have lost one more remarkable Renaissance Man.


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