Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in an interview with NPR that he wept each evening while writing condolence letters to the families of fallen troops.
“I was determined that these young people would not just become statistics for me,” Gates told NPR, in a story posted Monday. “And so I started out by handwriting parts of the — of the condolence letters.”
“And then — and even then that wasn’t enough, I felt,” he continued. “And I so then I started asking that every time one of these packets came to me, that it’d have a picture of the — of the soldier or sailor, airman or Marine who’d been killed, along with the hometown news so that I knew, you know, what their coaches and their parents and their brothers and sisters and teachers were saying about them, so I felt like I had some personal knowledge about each one of them.”
“And I would write those condolence letters every evening,” he continued.
Gates then said each evening he was overwhelmed by emotion and cried while writing the letters.
“It didn’t take too long,” he said. “I think that quite honestly, in the — in those evening sessions, writing the condolence letters, there probably wasn’t a single evening in nearly 4 1/2 years when I didn’t — when I didn’t weep.”
Gates, who also served in the CIA and the National Security Council, just released a memoir recalling his experience as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter