According to the weatherman

The following email is from Josh Eckhoff, a soldier stationed somewhere in Iraq. Josh is more than a soldier, he has been an employee of Greenscape Gardens for three years, a friend of everyone at the garden center, a boyfriend and is like a son to our family. The following letter was addressed to the students at Parkway South High School.

To My Fellow Patriots,

As I sit here writing in this hostile land, I wonder if these thoughts will reach you. Not so much in the physical sense, but more on an intellectual and emotional level. I hope that my simple words will somehow find their way into your busy hearts and minds.

I suppose you are wondering just who "I" am. Quite simply put, I am an American Soldier, but I am much more than you might imagine. I am a friend and a son, a student and an athlete. I am a teenager, an adolescent and an adult. I am much like you, with one very distinctive exception.....I am in Iraq. My name is Joshua Eckhoff and I graduated from South High just last year. I have been "in country" now for over three months, and I have learned a few things along the way. I must admit though, these are not the types of ideas that one would expect to teach a person.

I must share with you what I have come to know as two of the most powerful forces in the world today, Kindness and Hope. Unlike the divisive power of bullets and bombs, the power of kindness and hope comes from bringing people closer and reminding us that we are all in this together.

As a soldier, I have been exposed to the evils and horrors of war. However, I have also experienced the effects of endless kindness from my family, my friends, my teachers, and from total strangers. I have received endless support and have been showered with kindness, but the greatest gift these people have given me is the gift of Hope. Hope of a better day, hope of coming home, and hope of having the opportunity to return the kindness that has been so selfessly shown to me in the months that I have been gone.

Now, it is my hope that I can pass the importance of my realization on to you. I challenge you to shower those around you with kindness, not only your friends, but more importantly your enemies. Sometimes, the simple kindness of an honest smile can provide someone with just enough hope to make it through the day. You many never know the affect that your kindness has on certain
people, but know this....a kind word or act often inspires hope in those who need it most. I have seen the glimer of hope in an Iraqi child's eyes, and I assure you that hope, like kindness, transcends cultural and racial barriers. In this time of war, I challenge you to show unconditional kindness to those around you and to inspire hope in every life that you touch.

I hope these words find their way across the miles.....I hope to make a difference....I hope to inspire...I hope to have the opportunity to be kind...I hope to see you all again in good time....

With Patriot Pride, Joshua Eckhoff (class of 2003)

P.S. I am very proud of all my fellow Patriots at South High, both the students and the're simply the best!

Editors Note: Please pray for the save return of Josh, he could easily be your son, grandson, brother, husband, friend or neighbor.