[Eds: This letter was submitted and scheduled last week, before the recent—and possibly only temporary—victory for the Standing Rock protests.]
Today is your first birthday and I am missing it. There are very few things in the world that could keep me away from you on this day, but the chance to make your future better is one of them. I have been called upon to go to a place called the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. I am one of few people who might be able to make a difference in what may end up being the greatest battle humanity will face in my lifetime: the fight to prioritize human life over corporate profit, and thus save our planet and our civilization from catastrophic climate disruption.
The reason I will be missing you, the son I love so much, your mother, and the celebration of your first birthday is that I am a veteran of the United States military who made a promise to support and defend the Constitution and all citizens who are subject to the rights therein. We veterans believe in honor, courage, and commitment. We Americans believe in liberty and justice for all. So, we will be standing alongside the Native Americans who have been peacefully standing their ground to protect their access to clean and safe water, alongside people who have endured violent attacks protesting injustice and protecting the very world you will inherit.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stands in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline—an embodiment of corporate greed that threatens their way of life, their water, people, and ancestral land. And so we veterans will stand with them, as our country promises the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL Americans.
When you read this, my hope for you is that you will understand that through sacrifice, solidarity, and resistance, we can all support and defend what is right. Everyone deserves safety and security, the right to peacefully protest without enduring great harm, and access to clean water, healthy food, and a way of life that fulfills them. Through the actions of my fellow veterans and I on your birthday, my hope is to set a positive example for you and the rest of our country—that common defense of these rights is a sacred American value, and an attack on one group's rights is an attack on all of us.
As a white male growing up in Seattle, you will experience great privilege in your life. I hope you will learn to recognize it and use it as a tool to help others who are less fortunate. I hope you will act on injustice when you see it.
I will miss you and the love of my life while I am in North Dakota. But every day that I am there, fighting for justice, I will dream of you and hope that you will inherit a better world because of it.
Your dad, Gavin MacPherson [ET3 (SS) USN]