FOREWORD by, Judy Woodruff, an American television news anchor, a journalist, and a writer
I met Tom and Joan Kelley at a Congressional Medal of Honor Society dinner in New York a few years ago. They are the kind of people you like instantly, friendly, outgoing and easy to laugh: Tom, the celebrated recipient of that Congressional Medal, and Joan, his bright, engaging partner. I knew there had to be more to his story than the paragraph in the dinner program, but it was only when they later sent me a galley copy of the book they’d written together that I began to appreciate who they are and what they represent.
As the daughter of a career Army father, I grew up surrounded by the sights, sounds, and expectations of military life. In our family’s travels to Germany, Taiwan and a half dozen Army bases in the United States, I saw the pull that service to country has on the men and women who sign up for duty. It’s that same pull that drew Tom Kelley and Joan O’Connor to enlist in the Navy, at different times and different places, and that would ultimately draw them together.
Their story is, as the title says, one of courage, perseverance, and love, in the face of relentless obstacles that would have defeated just about everyone else. Tom and Joan have written with bracing honesty about growing up in Boston – 10 years but less than 10 miles apart – taking divergent paths through life, and repeatedly confronting large and small challenges that caused each to rethink what next step to take. With unusual candor, they share what they see as mistakes, embarrassments and moments of serious self-doubt. In other words, the very things that all of us can identify with.
I can’t imagine reading this story by Tom and Joan Kelley, who don’t meet until each has already led a full life, and follow their love for each other, for country, and for the men and women who serve it, without a sense of hope. Both turned moments that could have made them bitter, into a reason to give back. I was inspired, as will all of you who turn the page will be.