Apr 08 2014
For civilians who have never experienced a life in the military, and the many things that come with that life, it can be hard to explain or comprehend. But when Brian Owens received a “Flat Stanley” from an eight year old boy named Alan Orduna while stationed in Baghdad, he tucked Flat Stanley into his wallet and left him there…for the next ten years.
Over those ten years, Flat Stanley built up an impressive resume:
He helped carry out dozens of combat patrols through Baghdad. He held steady through firefights and mortar attacks.
He saw car bombs, the banks of the Tigris River and the palace of Uday Hussein, the eldest son of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He was there on the day of Iraq’s first democratic elections.
He was there when Owens, standing guard on a tower, dodged a sniper’s bullet by about 6 inches, and when his patrol hit an improvised explosive device. He saw the fate of some colleagues who weren’t so lucky.
After Brian Owens returned home he struggled to reintegrate into his civilian life and to find a job. That’s where Flat Stanley’s story picks up again – as Owens worked to rebuild his life with his family, hold a steady job and eventually excel at it! He put his life back together piece by piece after hitting bottom and seeing a counselor at the VA.
He wrote a letter to the teacher of Alan Orduna, now 18, and organized the triumphant return of Flat Stanley to the boy who sent him abroad in search of adventures. With the full letter recounting the adventures of Flat Stanley in the military, Owens included some final words of advice:
“Pick up your adventures with Stanley where ours ended. Put him in your wallet,” he wrote. “You will undoubtedly face hard times. You will experience lows and uncertainty. But, whenever you feel despair or emptiness setting in, remember a saying I learned in the Army — ‘If you ever get to the point where it’s hopeless and nothing more can be done, you’ve overlooked something.’
Grab your tissues and read the full story of Flat Stanley and his 10 years in the military on USAToday.com.