Johnny Weber, a 15-year-old from Wausau, Wisc., sent to the Idaho Mountain Express this copy of a letter he sent last month to President Barack Obama. The letter was referenced in a story published in the Idaho Mountain Express this week about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Hailey-area soldier being held captive in Afghanistan.
By JOHNNY WEBER
Dear Mr. President Barack Obama: My name is John Ricki Weber. I am a 15-year-old sophomore from Wausau, Wisc., and on the honor roll. I'm also an Eagle Scout, a first-generation immigrant, and one very patriotic person. I love American history and learning about our Constitution.
Last November, I started my own organization called Do Salute. Do Salute's mission is to honor our veterans and soldiers every day and not just on Veteran's Day. Please visit my website at http://www.dosalute.net.
Before I share with you why I'm actually writing to you, I think you'll really like it if I share a little about myself. I came to America in January 2008 and got to stay with a host family for a week in Wisconsin. I met two incredible people who kept hugging me from the moment I met them. These strangers hugged me so tight and cried so hard, they got my shirt collar wet. Oh how I loved that feeling that it did. Their names are Rick and Brenda Weber and they internationally adopted me in June 2008. They did so in record time as they learned of my situation and were determined to get me to America to be with them forever.
I don't think my Mom has stopped crying since she met me. Now only happy tears, because even to this day, her eyes get wet when she smiles at me. We have learned to become a family that loves and cares about one another.
See, Mr. President, I lived 12 sad and frightening years in Russia and six out of those 12 years in a not-so-nice orphanage. My life back there basically consisted of the daily grind of living with no one to watch over me or love me. I remember that feeling of loneliness and a desperate ache inside of me of just wanting what other kids from real homes had. I suffered a lot and lost a lot of people who were supposed to be the ones who did take good care of me, but didn't. Back then I only dreamed in black and white. I guess a lot of orphans do. Probably because without real love and a family not around in your life, life is just so sad. Even though I was just a kid!
Back in Russia, I saw and heard way tooooooooo much and even had my own life at risk from a few people who wanted me dead. But when I would open my eyes, realized I was still breathing, deep down I knew someone wanted me alive a lot more than these few people wanted me dead. I'm really a happy person now and have a lot of opportunities too.
But about six months ago I learned that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a POW in Afghanistan. My heart has been really heavy knowing that he is. He took a vow to defend our freedoms and now doesn't have any freedom at all. So I thought I would try and make a difference in his life much like my new family did in mine. So my family and I have started a petition effort and we also held a really nice Candle Light Vigil for my "Forever Friend" Bowe Bergdahl.
The deadline for the petition was March 27, 2012. and we set a goal of 30,000 signatures. Just a little over a month had gone by since we started the petition and within a couple of days before the deadline we had received over 40,000 signatures. Now we are over 85,000 signatures from people all over the country ... and the petitions just keep coming. I would like to know if my family and I can come to Washington, D.C., and hand you the petitions. I realize you are Sgt. Bergdahl's boss as you are the Commander in Chief and I believe they belong to you now.
I got to go to Washington, D.C., and was at the State of the Union address in January and still feel like I'm on Cloud 9 from being there. I don't know if you knew I was there, but I offered you my salute when you entered the House floor. It was amazing to think that just a few years ago I was an orphan in Russia and now am an Eagle Scout who got to see and hear the President of the United States of America. I was honored to be there and I think Washington, D.C., really liked me being there. Everyone was really nice and friendly to me. I now dream in red, white, and blue, Mr. President, and I thank every veteran and soldier for making me such a beautiful country to call my home.
I love the United States of America and its veterans with all my heart. I tasted freedom from the moment I saw my very first American flag. Since I became an Eagle Scout, I now fly with freedom under and over my wings. My vow is to honor our veterans and soldier every day and invite everyone to join me.