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Honoring Thor Hesla

Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Wu) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Rep. David Wu

legislator photo

Madam Speaker, America has lost a great public servant. Thor Hesla died in Kabul, Afghanistan last night, a victim of the Taliban.

That Thor should pass at the hands of religious extremists is perhaps one of the great ironies of life because he was such a strong proponent of the humane, human virtues in life. He worked in tough places, tough jobs in America, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, always promoting peace, democracy, and the general public welfare. He worked so many hard, dangerous jobs, and he was such a colorful person that he was larger than life. And I guess there are some of us who came to believe that the bullets would always go around him, and in his own particularly human way, Thor had become a touch immortal.

I owe him a deep debt of friendship and gratitude. He was my 1998 campaign manager, and we won a hard-fought campaign under his leadership. But that was the least of it. It was what he did afterwards. His friendship, his support, and his wise advice, which I was sometimes wise enough to accept, that was what for me set him apart and built our deep relationship. And I believe that there are hundreds of people across this country and perhaps thousands of people around the world who similarly feel this bond of friendship and this debt of gratitude to Thor. America and the world are better for his life and his work.

Earlier, I used the word ``victim'' in connection with Thor; and I misspoke, because Thor was no one's victim. He chose his life, he chose his work, and he chose Kabul.

Because of events earlier during the recess, I had an opportunity to speak with my son about life and its end. And while there are many ways to live well, to live a good life, there are few, if any, good ways to pass on. But if there are any, it is to pass on in the company of friends and family or to pass on for a cause. Now, Thor wasn't with his family in Atlanta or here in Washington, his sister, his brother-in-law, his nieces, or his parents; but he was with a family and a circle of friends, the family of those who care, the friends of those who care for others and who care to risk for others. He died in the cause of bringing some small measure of peace, prosperity, and democracy to those who are in dire need of those things.

So tonight we mourn, we remember, we celebrate the life of Thor Hesla. America has lost a fine public servant, but he is now a public servant for all those in all the ages who care to remember those who care and sacrifice for others.