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									Responsibility to Others: A Soldier’s
  Widow Writes About Her Lost
   Husband – Killed in Somalia

          Social Studies
       FCAT Reading Activity

       Recommended Activity
     for U.S. History / Grade 11

           Collier County Public Schools
                    August 2002
                                                                                      "Responsibility to Others"

The August 1, 1994 issue of U.S. News & World Report profiled a series of interviews with
individuals whose actions exemplified admirable character traits and who served as positive role
models for others. Arranged by trait, the article gave positive proof of the outstanding actions taken
on the part of ordinary Americans when faced with crisis. Each individual was asked to write a letter
to a person whom they greatly admired and whom they felt exemplified such traits as “courage”,
“responsibility”, “tolerance”, etc. Carmen Gordon was asked to write a letter which would focus on
the dedication and “responsibility” exhibited by her husband, a special forces soldier and sniper who
sacrificed his life in the vain attempt of saving two injured comrades in a “downed” Blackhawk
helicopter in Somalia. [His heroism is stoically depicted in the movie, “Blackhawk Down”.] She
chose to write to her husband’s surviving children about the type of father they had “lost”. The
article ran as follows . . .

    “For your father, there were no hard choices. Once he committed, the way was clear.”
                            - Carmen Gordon with her children

In 1993, Master Sgt. Gary Gordon was killed trying to rescue a fellow soldier in Mogadishu,
Somalia. His widow, Carmen, and their two children, Ian, 6, and Brittany, 3, live in Southern
Pines, N. C.
My dearest Ian and Brittany,

  I hope that in the final moments of your father's life, his last thoughts
were not of us. As he lay dying, I wanted him to think only of the mission to

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which he pledged himself. As you grow older, if I can show you the love and
responsibility he felt for his family, you will understand my feelings. I did
not want him to think of me, or of you, because I did not want his heart to
   Children were meant to have someone responsible for them. No father
ever took that more seriously than your dad. Responsibility was a natural
part of him, an easy path to follow. Each day after work his truck pulled
into our driveway. I watched the two of you run to him, feet pounding
across the painted boards of our porch, yelling, "Daddy!" Every day, I saw
his face when he saw you. You were the center of his life.
   Ian, when you turned 1 year old, your father was beside himself with
excitement, baking you a cake in the shape of a train. On your last
birthday, Brittany, he sent you a hand-made birthday card from Somalia.
But your father had two families. One was us, and the other was his
comrades. He was true to both.
   He loved his job. Quiet and serious adventure filled some part of him I
could never fully know. After his death, one of his comrades told me that on
a foreign mission, your dad led his men across a snow-covered ridge that
began to collapse. Racing across a yawning crevasse to safety, he grinned
wildly and yelled, "Wasn't that great?"
   You will hear many times about how your father died. You will read
what the president of the United States said when he awarded the Medal of
Honor: "Gary Gordon . . . died in the most courageous and selfless way any
human being can act." But you may still ask why. You may ask how he
could have been devoted to two families so equally, dying for one but
leaving the other.
   For your father, there were no hard choices in life. Once he committed to
something, the way was clear. He chose to be a husband and father, and
never wavered in those roles. He chose the military, and "I shall not fail
those with whom I serve" became his simple religion. When his other family
needed him, he did not hesitate, as he would not have hesitated for us. It
may not have been the best thing for us, but it was the right thing for your
   There are times now when that image of him coming home comes back to
me. I see him scoop you up, Ian, and see you, Brittany, bury your head in
his chest. I dread the day when you stop talking and asking about him,
when he seems so long ago. So now I must take responsibility for keeping his
life entwined with yours. It is a responsibility I never wanted.
   But I know what your father would say. "Nothing you can do about it,
Carmen. Just keep going." Those times when the crying came, as I stood at

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                                                                                        "Responsibility to Others"

the kitchen counter, were never long enough. You came in the front door,
Brittany, saying, "Mommy, you sad? You miss Daddy?" You reminded me I
had to keep going.
   The ceremonies honoring your dad were hard. When they put his photo
in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, I thought, can this be all that is left, a
picture? Then General Sullivan read from the letter General Sherman wrote
to General Grant after the Civil War, words so tender that we all broke
down. "Throughout the war, you were always in my mind. I always knew
if I were in trouble and you were still alive you would come to my
   One night before either of you were born, your dad and I had a funny
little talk about dying. I teased that I would not know where to bury him.
Very quietly, he said, "Up home. In my uniform." Your dad never liked to
wear a uniform. And "up home," Maine, was so far away from us.
   Only after he was laid to rest in a tiny flag-filled graveyard in Lincoln,
Maine, did I understand. His parents, burying their only son, could come
tomorrow and the day after that. You and I would not have to pass his
grave on the way to the grocery store, to Little League games, to ballet
recitals. Our lives would go on. And to the men he loved and died for, the
uniform was a silent salute, a final repeat of his vows. Once again, he had
taken care of all of us.
   On a spring afternoon, a soldier from your dad's unit brought me the
things from his military locker. At the bottom of a cardboard box, beneath
his boots, I found a letter. Written on a small, ruled tablet, it was his voice,
quiet but confident in the words he wanted us to have if something should
happen to him. I'll save it for you, but so much of him is already inside you
both. Let it grow with you. Choose your own responsibilities in life but
always, always, follow your heart. Your dad will be watching over you, just
as he always did.

Word Count - 1118
From: U.S. News & World Report, August 1, 1994, pages 32-33.

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                                                                                      "Responsibility to Others"

                                                      Name ________________________________

"Responsibility to Others – A Soldier's Widow Writes . . . "

Multiple Choice Questions:

    1. Which of the following statements would be most accurate about the story?
         a. Mrs. Gordon found it hard to forgive the Somalis for the death of her husband.
         b. The death of her husband caused her to question the role the U.S. in sending
             our armed forces overseas.
         c. Sergeant Gordon was loyal to both his family and his military unit.
         d. Mrs. Gordon felt confident that in his last moments of life that her husband
             thought about his family.

    2. Which of the following definitions best describes the term “devoted”?
         a. to be loyal to, to commit yourself to
         b. to be courageous and brave in the face of danger
         c. to be a friend to
         d. to make holy or sacred

    3. Which of the following definitions best describes the term “exemplified”?
         a. to expose as false
         b. to embody, typify
         c. not inherent to, alien
         d. to scorn, excoriate, ridicule

    4. What was the main idea behind General Sherman’s letter to Ulysses S. Grant?
         a. Sherman knew Grant would always come to his support, regardless of cost.
         b. Sherman felt that both he and Grant could defeat the South in very little time.
         c. Sherman questioned Grant’s judgment, but obeyed his order to the end.
         d. Despite their vast differences, the bond between them was one that each
             would sacrifice to maintain.

    5. What statement would BEST illustrates the main idea of this reading?
         a. One should always place his/her devotion to country ahead of all else.
         b. The U.S. was correct in its sending troops to Somalia to assist the starving
             people there.
         c. Soldiers who die in battle are heroes to their comrades.
         d. You must always be true to your word and your commitments.

    6. Which of the following statements about the story is FALSE?
         a. The soldier loved both his family and his military unit.
         b. The widow received a letter from her deceased husband which she has not
             yet shared with her children.
         c. The soldier was given the Medal of Honor by the President of the United
         d. Mr. Gordon’s wish, if he died, was to be buried close to his wife and children.

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                                                                                      "Responsibility to Others"

    7.   In what way did Master Sgt. Gordon exhibit “responsibility” to others?
           a. His military record showed that he continually risked his well being for the
              sake of others.
           b. His wife wrote that he had adopted the motto, “I shall not fail those with whom
              I serve.”
           c. He rescued several soldiers and got them to safety before he himself was
              mortally wounded.
           d. He made sure that he had a large insurance policy to help his family should he
              fall in combat.

    8. Which of the following definitions would be most OPPOSITE of “wavered”?
         a. to be steadfast
         b. to be unsure, to go “back and forth”
         c. to vacillate
         d. to say one thing and do another

    9. When were U.S. forces sent into Somalia?
         a. in the 1970s
         b. in the 1980s
         c. in the 1990s
         d. in the early 2000s

    10. “Racing across a yawning crevasse to safety , . . .”
         which of the following words means the same as “yawning” in the sentence above?
          a. a narrow area
          b. a “sleepy” or non-busy area
          c. a place where nothing happens, boring
          d. a wide, very open area

Collier County Social Studies FCAT Reading Created by Jack Bovee, Coordinator   August 2002         Page 6
                                                                                      "Responsibility to Others"

Extended Response Question
  It is often said that a picture is “worth a thousand words”. Look at the picture of Mrs.
Gordon and her children that ran in a national publication shortly after the event took place.
Describe why that picture is able to deeply affect the emotions of the viewer. Make sure you
provide details from the picture to support your view.

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                                                                                          "Responsibility to Others"

                                      Teacher Resource Page
                   "Responsibility to Others - A Soldier's Death in Somalia"

Note: Teachers may wish to use the graphic organizer "Viewpoint and Evidence Organizer" from
the "Social Studies Teacher's Toolkit" with this reading for the purpose of helping students analyze
the author's views.

Sunshine State Standards

L.A.A.1.4.2 Selects and uses strategies to understand words and text, and to make and confirm inferences
from what is read, including interpreting diagrams, graphs, and statistical illustrations.

L.A.A.2.4.1 Determines the main idea and identifies relevant details, methods of development, and their
effectiveness in a variety of types of written material.

L.A.A.2.4.2 Determines the author’s purpose and point of view and their effects on the text.             (Includes
L.A.A.2.4.5 Identifies devices of persuasion and methods of appeal and their effectiveness.)

SS.A.5.4.6 Understands U.S. history from 1880 to the present day and understands the political events that
shaped the development of United States foreign policy since World War II and knows characteristics of that

SS.C.2.4.3 Understands the role of the citizen in American democracy and understands issues of personal
concern: the rights and responsibilities of individuals under the Constitution, the importance of civil liberties,
the role of conflict resolution and compromise, and issues involving ethical behavior in politics.

SS.C.2.1.2 Understands the role of the citizen in American democracy and knows that a responsibility is a
duty do something or not to do something. (reinforcement of lower grade benchmark.)

Answer Key
Multiple Choice
  1. A
  2. B
  3. A
  4. D
  5. D
  6. B
  7. A
  8. C
  9. D

Extended Response Question:
A top score for this response (4 pts.) should fulfill the criteria of the rubric and have at least
three supporting details for either picture. For the picture of Mrs. Gordon and the children a
student might write that they are (1) well groomed, (2) poised in a rather formal setting, the
children being embraced by their mother, (3) the house is well maintained, symbolic of the
thought and care the late husband had provided for his family, (4) an American flag speaks
to the patriotic feelings of the mother, who wishes that her children will love the nation as
much as her late husband and (5), the writer may note the young ages of the children which
naturally evokes sympathy for their situation.

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