Journal Entry: John Dalaly-11/20/2023-Lessons from Our Troops

Journal Entry

As my surrender date draws nearer, I find myself reflecting on the profound experiences and lessons I’ve gathered throughout my life. Today, I’m reminded of my visit to Iraq alongside the USA troops, an experience that left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. It’s a story I aim to share with the other people I will meet at the Federal Prison Camp in Hazelton. I’ll weave this lesson into the curriculum I’m crafting for my time there.

In the early ’90s, I embarked on a journey to Iraq, joining forces with the USA troops. It was a trip that touched me deeply, and it has continued to inspire me over the years. These soldiers, whom I had the privilege of accompanying, were a remarkable group of individuals. Their respect, humility, and unwavering commitment to bettering the lives of the Iraqi people and the Ministry of Health were nothing short of extraordinary.

During our time together, I was struck by their hospitality and genuine warmth. We would gather for late lunches, engaging in conversations that spanned the breadth of our lives. We spoke of our hometowns in the USA, shared stories of our families, delved into matters of faith and spirituality, and even exchanged tales of cherished home-cooked meals. These moments of camaraderie transcended boundaries and instilled in me a sense of unity and shared humanity.

Amid our discussions, the soldiers opened up about the highs and lows of their experiences. They revealed their deepest fears and insecurities, laying bare the emotional toll of their sacrifices. They were brave beyond measure, yet what resonated most was their profound longing for their families, whom they missed dearly.

Their question to me, “How do you do it?” was a stark reminder of the sacrifices we all make in pursuit of a greater purpose. As a businessman, I, too, have missed precious moments with my family while striving to provide them with a better life. Sacrificing time with our loved ones for the sake of a larger mission is a burden we share. However, I’ve come to understand that the sacrifices made by these soldiers, enduring prolonged separations from their families, are unparalleled.

The biblical lesson that resonates with me during this reflection is from the New Testament, specifically from the book of Mark, where Jesus imparts the wisdom of Mark 8:36 (NIV): “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” This verse underscores the importance of prioritizing our inner selves and our relationships over material gains.

The takeaway from this lesson is clear: while we pursue our goals and ambitions, we must never lose sight of the deeper connections and values that define our lives. Our time with loved ones is a treasure that must be cherished and protected. Just as the soldiers willingly risked missing monumental moments in their families’ lives for the greater good, we, too, must strive for balance and make time for what truly matters.

In prison, I hope to encourage the other men around me to value their families and inner selves above all else. With good planning, our time can become an opportunity for growth, reflection, and the rediscovery of our core values. By emphasizing the importance of maintaining these connections, we can collectively build lives of meaning, relevance, and dignity, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

May this lesson from the New Testament guide us all on our journeys, reminding us of the significance of our souls and the love we share with our families, both within and beyond these prison walls.