I have to echo Christian Adams’s tribute to our friend Ray Hartwell, who we tragically lost last week. Ray was a very successful lawyer at a big Washington, D.C. law firm, and a man who always wanted to do more to help this great nation that he loved.
We got to know each other through a mutual friend when Ray decided he wanted to start writing about the fight to maintain our liberty and preserve our constitutional form of government. He quickly gained an audience and wrote very thoughtful pieces for publications such as The Washington Times, the American Spectator, and Powerlineblog. In fact, both Quin Hillyer and Paul Mirengoff have moving remembrances about Ray at the Spectator and Powerline.
Ray and I even had a shared connection that was one of those odd coincidences that sometimes happen in Washington. He recently went into semi-retirement and moved back to his hometown, Jacksonville, Ala. My father taught at Jacksonville State College a very long time ago, and I spent the first six years of my life living in Jacksonville. In fact, one of Ray’s cousins went to high school with my sister.
Ray was consistent in his willingness to take on controversial issues he felt were at the root of the ability of our military forces to accomplish the various missions for which they were deployed. One particularly insightful example was this column about the rules of engagement implemented in Afghanistan by the Obama administration. Artfully using an array of examples to make his point, he argued that these rules actually put our forces at severe risk while simultaneously making it more difficult to accomplish their already dangerous mission.
Ray’s last column (unfortunately for all of us) was this one: “A Christmas Eve Message to the Troops.” It was published on Dec. 24, 2013, and told the story of his father, who was the commander of Company H of the 143rdInfantry Regiment, during a battle at Christmas 1943 around the small Italian village of San Pietro. His father had been awarded a Silver Star for his bravery at the Salerno landing three months earlier. His father was severely wounded in the battle for San Pietro and his regiment suffered 80 percent casualties.
Ray ended the column with the Christmas message sent to the officers and men of his father’s regiment by its commanding officer, Col. William Martin. The final paragraph of that message read as follows:
“At this Christmas time, I thank you for your response to the call of duty and wish for you the richest blessings of Almighty God. With His help you are making it possible during all time to come for our loved ones and our posterity to have and enjoy Peace on Earth-Good Will Toward Men.”
We all thank Ray for the call to duty that he felt in his writing, and we regret his passing so soon. We will miss his insight, his thoughtfulness, and his determination to make a difference.