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A Born Soldier

CIA Operations Officer Helge Boes '97 died in Afghanistan in February when a grenade detonated prematurely during a live-fire training exercise. His classmate U.S. Marine Captain Michael Weston '97 wrote this tribute from northern Kuwait.

Helge Boes at his wedding
Helge Boes '97 at his wedding

My friend Helge Boes died in eastern Afghanistan, in a different theater of the same war that I now find myself in, here in Kuwait. I did not know that he was there, nor likely he that I am here. In the years since we graduated from law school, we drifted apart. Many times over the last few years, I have wondered how he is and wanted to call. But I did not, and now the chance is gone.

I have spent most of today thinking about him, as I suspect I will for some time. I remember that he loved soccer, he loved classical music and he loved beer. He was no drunk; far from it, he was one of the most disciplined people I ever met. He loved beer in a way unique to Germans; he would go on at length about the beer purity law, and how evolved a society had to be in order to conceive of such a document. He would savor every sip of every glass, horrified all the while that I would let something like Iron City pass my lips. He enjoyed being at Harvard; he enjoyed the classes and the students and the professors. He was completely comfortable with himself, which made him a pleasure to be around.

But more than anything, he loved his wife, Cindy Tidler '97. He was never ashamed of it, the way many men are. She was the perfect woman for him, and he knew it and was grateful for her every day that I knew him. It was obvious from the day they met that she completed him. They were my best friends while I was at the law school; knowing them made bearable a time in my life that was otherwise frustrating and disappointing. He supported me as I drifted away from Harvard into the Marine Corps. In return, I tried to push him back into the Army. He also felt the pull of military life, and of duty, but also felt a strong sense of obligation to his wife. We graduated, and he married Cindy and took a job with a law firm. I went overseas, and eventually we lost touch.

I did not know that Helge joined the CIA, but they were wise to hire him. He was a lifelong student of politics and foreign affairs, of language and of the military arts. He was a born soldier, and in the end he found his way back to his true calling. He was selfless in a way that few who pass through Harvard Law School have the strength and the courage to be.

When I return from this war, I will visit his grave, to say farewell and to apologize for letting such a priceless friendship slip away, and to try to make my peace with his death. There is nothing I can do for him now, here in the desert of northern Kuwait. But I ask you to honor him, in whatever way seems appropriate. He was the best of us.

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