This past Jan. 24 Army Sgt. Michael Carlson (above) was killed in Iraq. As a high school senior at St. Paul’s (parochial) Cretin-Derham High School, Carlson wrote the moving credo that the Wall Street Journal published on its editorial page earlier this week. Today the Minneapolis Star Tribune tells the story of Carlson and his credo: “His words are his legacy.” Here are four paragraphs of Carlson’s credo:
I admire my father more than any other person on this planet, not for being a mechanic or a tough guy but for his ambition. For 30 years, he has gone to work every day, come home, gone to the garage and worked more hours. I don’t know how he does it but I do know why. He does it for us. He wants my brother and me to have everything we need and most of what we want. Lots of people say that the best way to learn is by the example of others. Well, then I have one of the best teachers on how to be a man [and] how to treat others. I mean, he is not perfect by any means, but is anyone really perfect? I think that he is pretty close.
Sometimes I wonder if my dad ever thought of college. I wonder if he is happy. I sometimes even feel sorry for him. What I mean by that is that I look at him and I see a guy who has spent his entire life working. That is what he does. He works. If my mom never brought up the idea of a vacation, he would never think [about taking one]. He would work to the day he died. I love hard work, but how do you go to the same dead-end job every day knowing that you will be doing it forever?
Every now and then, someone who had my dad fix his car will stop by and need something, and every time I talk to them they always start talking about my dad’s work. They compliment him on paint jobs he did 20 years ago that still look like they are brand new. That reminds me of another trait I have taken from my dad, besides my hard work ethic. “If you are going to do a job, do it right the first time, because a job not done well is a job not worth doing,” so the saying goes. I take that personally. If someone has an honest complaint about my workmanship, I will bend over backwards to make it right. If people are going to pay you good money to do something, you had better do a darn good job. That is why I usually work alone. Then, if there is a problem, I know whom I can blame.
My dad hasn’t taught me everything, though. A lot of it I have learned on my own. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I have figured out things like how to deal with people I don’t like and those who don’t like me. I’ve also learned why, when cutting a frozen bagel, you cut away from yourself. I have the scar to prove it. My dad calls this type of learning “the school of hard knocks.” Some of the knocks are harder than others.
Below is the photo of Carlson’s parents by Jeff Wheeler that the Star Tribune runs with the story by Chuck Haga.
The Star Tribune caption reads: “Michael Carlson’s parents, Daniel and Merrilee Carlson, find comfort in the high school assignment left by their son. The paper included a heartfelt tribute to his father, and has been widely published since being read at his funeral. ‘He always took care of his friends,’ Daniel said of his son. The flag that draped Michael