HANSCOM AFB, Mass.
– When David Falvey was deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008, as part of his Army National Guard unit, he never dreamed it would lead to an additional career as an author.
“A few years ago I met a teacher from Long Island, Julie Hutt, a friend of a family friend, at a wedding,” said Mr. Falvey, a member of the 751st Electronic Systems Group, who serves as acquisition program manager for Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System re-engining. “When she heard I was deployed to Iraq, she had her fourth-grade class send letters to me. I received this big package with drawings of Soldiers and tanks and letters that included questions from each student.”
He was impressed with the students’ questions. One question that struck him was, “Why are we fighting for Iraq’s freedom? Do some people not want to be free?”
“At first you think that is a silly question but then you realize it fundamentally is “Why are we there?” Mr. Falvey said. “I wanted to make sure I responded to these great questions, so I emailed the students back through their teacher. I tried to do a good job, answered the best I could.”
As part of the email, Mr. Falvey included both the children’s question and a response. He had mentioned this ongoing correspondence to some of his family and friends, and forwarded the email with the questions and answers to them.
A family friend who works in children’s book publishing thought it was a great idea for a book and asked if she could take the idea to her editorial board. Mr. Falvey agreed, the board loved the idea, so the book, “Letters to a Soldier,” incorporating the children’s questions and drawings along with Mr. Falvey’s responses, was created.
“I am an accidental author,” Mr. Falvey said. “However, I was glad to participate because here in Massachusetts not as many people are as familiar with the military as in the South. I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t know anyone in the military. I want people and kids to know what it’s like to be a Soldier. I want people who are asking, ‘Who’s a Soldier?’ to be able to say, ‘Dave’s a Soldier.’ I definitely think there are things to be learned in the book. It’s more an educational than fun book.”
Along that military theme, Mr. Falvey also mentioned how his job at Hanscom, where he has been working since August 2008, is so important to him.
“There is such a strong emphasis on supporting the warfighter here. There is such a devotion to the troops on the ground and how best we can support their mission. During my tour, my Soldiers and I were those warfighters on the ground. It’s almost like in my full-time job I’m supporting myself and my troops of my part-time role. I honestly feel like the luckiest person in the world to be working here. It’s very fulfilling.”
Being an author has been a “great experience,” and “a lot of fun,” Mr. Falvey said.
“The book just came out Oct. 1, and we have had a pretty good response. I think there’s definitely a market for it. When kids are four or five years old, they may not know there is a war. But by the time they are nine, ten years old, they know there is a war, and they have questions about it. This is a pretty good baseline.”
Mr. Falvey said the letters in the book were not the only letters from children he responded to and that if deployed again, he would definitely continue to respond.
“I didn’t plan for any of this. If you had told me a year ago there would be a billboard on Mass. Ave. with my face on it, promoting a book signing, I would have told you, you were crazy. But now I’m doing the signings, and also other opportunities, such as Veteran’s Day events, where I can speak with kids.”
Although Mr. Falvey has not had a chance to meet the children who sent him the original questions, he would like to.
“I hope that happens really soon,” he said. “One thing about every letter that touched me was the amount of compassion they had for me. The letters would say, ‘I’m worried about you,’ or ‘I hope you come home safely,’ and you knew it was sincere.”
A portion of the book sale proceeds go to the Fisher House, a charity that provides living arrangements for family members of service members who are hospitalized due to illness or injury.
“I’m excited to help the Fisher House,” Mr. Falvey said. “I feel those of us who were fortunate to make it home safely owe it to our brothers and sisters who were wounded to help them and their families out.”
He also mentioned that he dedicated the book to one of his Soldiers, Sgt. Scott Miller, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer while on deployment, and passed away in October 2008.
“Sgt. Miller was such a courageous guy. He had already beaten cancer once and didn’t have to go on this deployment because of his medical history, but he did. As they say in the Army, he truly embodied the warrior ethos. He was a great Soldier.”
Mr. Falvey is still in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, now as a captain and company commander.