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Update from the Class of 2001 graduates of the National War College website, maintained by Bob Felderman:

 

1/1/2002 Book Review of "The Silent Knight"

Folks, I've just finished reading Craig Carlson's first book "The Silent Knight" for the second time since Christmas (it arrived shortly before after few delays in the ordering).

I am truly moved by such an enthralling work. Craig has delicately taken portions from his life (and others who mentored and lead him) and transformed it into a beautiful story.

"The Silent Knight" offers direction for all of us in our lives with focus on how we can love others in His name.

It's a must read, feel good book of the year (and very inexpensive) .

Craig, thank you. Bob


RADM James Carey wrote the foreword of SILENT KNIGHT. He was a member of the Reagan Administration and is currently the Grand Master of the Knights Templar (www.osmth.org). He continues  to be a proud Silent Knight.

 

FROM THE FOREWORD...
RADM James J. Carey, Grand Commander, OSMTHWhen Col. Carlson first asked me to read the draft version of the first three chapters of this book, I put it in my briefcase as “airplane reading” where I could digest it without telephone interruptions and other distractions. One week later, I was on a flight to Dallas and pulled it out of my briefcase and began reading. I was immediately intrigued and more accurately “hooked.”

This story came to life for me as I was drawn into the character of the retired U.S. Army Colonel who uses his position as a Knight in the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem [The Knights Templar] to do good for others less fortunate, and further uses those good deeds as the catalyst to train young men [and later young ladies] about the personal satisfaction and wonderful feeling of service to mankind that comes from such acts of the heart. I couldn’t put the draft copy down until I’d read it twice.

I called Col. Carlson from Dallas to ask when I could read the rest of the book? That opportunity came three months later when he completed the final draft.  Once again, I read the final version on an airplane, this time on the way to Europe. I freely confess that parts of it made me, a grown and retired military man, cry with tears of joy at the absolute goodness that was being achieved by this kind and caring Silent Knight. I could identify with the main character, Colonel Peterson, who had first served his nation in combat and mortal danger, and was now, with the strong support of a wonderful life’s companion and wife, using his maturity, experience and leadership to pass along the wonderful feeling of fulfillment and serenity gained from simply and anonymously helping one’s fellow and less fortunate citizens meet their individual needs.

Col. Carlson, as the author of Silent Knight, has truly identified something in the soul of mankind that causes many of us to seek a greater good than simply the standard pursuit of material things for our families and selves. He has found an inner sanctum that not everyone can describe; but a quiet and peaceful security within oneself that comes from wanting to do something to make the lives of complete strangers better for the simple reason that it’s the right thing to do. And to do so anonymously, not seeking thanks or personal aggrandizement, but rather the simple satisfaction of having done something good that has made the life of another better for one shining moment.

I feel we are all fortunate that he has taken the time to put these thoughts and concept in written form where it can be shared with others, and where you, the reader, can, as I did, experience the absolute and unselfish goodness that mankind can exhibit if only given the tools of an honorable life and the desire to make ours a better world for everyone, and not just those who are in our immediate families.    

I am honored to have been given the opportunity to read this book before publication, and to share my thoughts with Col. Carlson, and to be further honored by being asked to provide this Foreword as my small part of this magnificent effort. If this book encourages just one human being to do just one kind thing for another human being, then it will have been both successful and a living memorial to all things good in the Eyes of God. And if it encourages hundreds or thousands to do so and to do so anonymously, so much more the better to carry out the motto of The Knights Templar, which is NON NOBIS DOMINE, NON NOBIS, SED NOMINI TUO DA GLORIAM, “Not Unto Us, Oh Lord, Not Unto Us, But To THY NAME Give Glory.”

This book, through its main character, the old Colonel, carries out that motto each and everyday, and it is indeed a superb example for all of us to follow. I intend to emulate The Colonel, and by so doing, make ours a better world and my life a better example for those who follow in my footsteps to make our planet, truly, a place where each of us cares more about others than we do our own personal comforts.

God Bless All Who Read These Words,

 

RADM [Ret.] James J. Carey,

GCTJ, GMTJ

International Grand Commander

   of The Knights Templar

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THE SILENT KNIGHT, INC.
PO Box 161
Martinsburg, PA 16662

SILENT KNIGHT is the story of one man's effort to make a difference in his community. It is a story of love, compassion, mentoring and dignity. The author weaves a delicate message of service to others with a beautiful love story that captures your heart. You will cry, laugh and wonder at the simplicity and beauty of the SILENT KNIGHT. It is a story for all ages.

 

SILENT KNIGHT is the first book in a trilogy centered on the life and legacy of Sir Donald Wilhelm Peterson, a fictitious retired Army colonel and Knight Templar. SILENT KNIGHT is a mixture of fact and fiction...the charity is real and many elements of the story have been derived from the author's experiences and persons he has known.

 

Perhaps you can become a SILENT KNIGHT. If you have the desire, passion, caring soul, respect and dignity of character represented by this story, you too can make a difference. Read this book and ask yourself, "WHY NOT?"


Excerpted from SILENT KNIGHT by Craig L. Carlson

CHAPTER 1

Colonel (Retired) Donald Wilhelm Peterson was sixty-five with an elegant stature and well-groomed appearance. On first glance, he had an aura of having led an active life. The surrounding décor of the room would validate that opinion. As a retired officer of Artillery with thirty years of active service the large living room where he stood was well stocked with military memorabilia, antiques, lithographs and plaques arranged on the dark oak walls. The Persian carpets and fine leather chairs further alluded to some degree of financial comfort. He seemed content watching the fireplace, which cast a lovely orange glow about the room and made his facial lines more pronounced in the fading evening light. His hair was white and receding, the face was kindly with eyes that had a pleasant spark and hinted of a deeper knowledge.

His thoughts were about the young men that had served him over the past twenty years as Squires and their memory was very special to him. A new one was to arrive any minute and the anticipation was a good feeling. What would this one be like? Would he be as good as the others? Was the Colonel getting too old to relate to this generation? Father Riley had a good sense about the character and moral fiber of the young men he had recommended but there was always this nagging anticipation.

The young man who approached the house wore a blue button-down collared shirt, a navy blue sweater and khaki pants. His black hair was unruly and was further disheveled by the cool fall breeze that crossed the well-manicured lawn. The boy thought, it was cold for September, but 1985 had been a strange year for weather. His 16-year-old face was creamy with red child-like cheeks. He did not look comfortable. The clothes were not of his choosing and he tugged at them with obvious disapproval. John Conrady had no idea what awaited him and he felt as though he had been summoned to the principal's office for punishment. As he rang the doorbell, he had an almost overwhelming inclination to run away.

The Colonel opened the door and fixed his trained eyes on the young man's face. It amused him as he thought about how the squires seemed to get younger looking every year. It is funny how age changes your perception of youth. The young man had a childlike face pure and innocent.

"You must be Squire John… I have been expecting you. Father Riley called to say he had spoken to your parents and that you would be dropping by this evening. Together, we are going to do much good. It is a pleasure to meet you. Father Riley has many good things to say about you."

As Donald extended his hand, he smiled warmly and in a disarming way motioned for John to enter the house.

John was relieved by the brief introduction and warmed by the gentleman's manner; he timidly shook Donald's hand. The young man had not one clue as to the meaning of the "Squire" reference.

"Yes, sir, I am John Conrady. My father told me that I should drive here this evening and that you would explain some… job… you want me to volunteer for."

The young man scanned the vestibule and into the living room at the assembled memorabilia and art. To him, the house looked more like a museum than a home. It was not intimidating, but it was different from any home he had seen.

"That is correct. First, can I fix you a soda or tea?"

"A Coke would be fine."

They moved into the kitchen and poured two glasses and walked back to the living room where they sat opposite each other. The lesson began.

"John, you are the eighteenth Squire I have enlisted for service. Do you know what a Squire is?"

John was perplexed, he wondered where this conversation was leading.

"No, sir."

"A Squire is a Knight's apprentice and helper. You see, I belong to an Order of Christian Knights that seeks to do good for people in need. We prefer to be anonymous, as we do not seek recognition for our random acts of charity. That is where you come in. As my Squire, I will enlist your support one or two days a month to run charitable errands for me."

John looked at Donald and thought, this man isn't playing with a full deck. He must be deluding himself. This talk about Knights and Squires, it’s crazy. He said, "Why do you want to be anonymous?"

"Because the Order's motto is: "Not unto us, Oh Lord, not unto us, but to Thy Name give glory." We do these things for God, not for ourselves. This is why you will deliver the gifts, and I will remain a "Silent Knight." That is your mission, to maintain my anonymity. As a matter of fact, this charity is referred to, within the Order, as Silent Knight."

John was searching for something to say. He thought the Colonel was crazy and that this would be the last time he would see this man, but John was not bold enough to say so. What came out was:  "Well, Sir, that doesn't sound too difficult. Why me?"

"Your family priest, Father Riley, and I are friends and we have worked together for several years identifying young men for duty as Squires. His judgment has been flawless, and I suspect you will prove to be a noble Squire."

Donald looked at John and asked him, "Do you want to help me do some good?"

John felt trapped. He thought the idea was pretty strange, but now he had to respond.

"How long will I be a Squire?"

"For only one year in active service; however, your name will be added to my cherished list and you will always be my Squire."

A year, when you are just sixteen, sounds more like a punitive sentence than a limit and Donald could sense the young man's thoughts.

"Well, Squire John, do you accept?"

John had to commit. It was a good cause, how could he not say yes?  Maybe he could say yes and never show up again. That was a possible option. Trapped! No escape!

"Yes sir… it sounds… interesting… but… do you have to call me Squire? My friends might think it was kind of weird."

"No, if the title bothers you, I will just call you John."

"When do we start?"

"First, I have something for you."

The Colonel reached into his pocket and withdrew a lapel pin and attached it to the young man's collar.

"This pin has the cross of the Order on the white shield of a Knight. The sword through the center represents our knightly heritage and the "SK" stands for the program Silent Knight. It is to be worn whenever you are performing Silent Knight activities. It is to remind you that you are to conduct yourself in a manner that would make those you represent proud."

The new Squire felt the pin, smiled and thought this was pretty cool. He had seen only one other kid wearing one at church and had wondered what it meant. That kid was now graduating from college and being commissioned as an Army lieutenant.

Next, the Colonel took a business card and wrote his home phone number on it and handed it to John.  "You have direct access to me. If I can help you or if you know someone that needs help, you may call me. You have friends in your school, look beyond them and find the ones that need confidence or a little boost. Maybe we can make a difference for someone. If I can assist you with advice or with a recommendation, do not hesitate to call. You are welcome in this house and I hope that you will feel comfortable as we get to know each other better. My wife, Helena, is a Dame within the Order and she is well aware of Silent Knight business. She can answer questions if I am not available. I wish she were here this evening to meet you, but she is helping another friend of ours."

"What should I call you?"

"I have been called many things in my life. You may call me Don, Donald, Colonel or anything you are comfortable with, as long as you are smiling."

The Colonel winked at John and both grinned at each other.

"Now, you are ready for your first mission. I have a couple of bags of groceries in the kitchen for you to deliver to Mrs. Robertson, she lives at 1004 East Oak Street. She is widowed, elderly and has difficulty taking care of herself. She has no family and has little income. She used to volunteer at the Methodist Church and took care of her husband until he died two years ago of Parkinson's Disease."

The young man thought that this was too quick; no way out! He started looking through the bags. There were many canned items, some easy TV dinners, instant soups, some fresh baked cookies, a couple of bars of candy, toilet paper, soap, new sponges, a hair brush and a small bottle of cologne. There was no doubt that this would be a welcome gift.

"This is a nice thing to do and should be very easy."

"John, there is more… take this envelope and hand it to Mrs. Robertson, it is addressed to her. Inside is an anonymous card with our Order's Crest and motto. Tell her that you were asked to deliver some groceries. If she asks who they are from, or insists that they are not hers, tell her that the items are from an Order of Christian Knights that recognize her service to the community and wish to do something for her. If she invites you in, set the groceries in the kitchen and politely wish her a good evening and depart. If she doesn't invite you in, ask where she would like the items left."

"OK. Seems easy enough."

Donald reached into his pocket and pulled out a five-dollar bill.

"Here, this is for you."

John looked at the bill and said, "I shouldn't take money for this. This is voluntary."

"The money is for your expenses, gas for your car. You should not have any expenses while serving as my Squire. It is not an option. it isn't much, take it."

John tucked the money in his pocket, wrestled the groceries to his car and departed for Mrs. Robertson's house.

The Colonel waved and wished him well on his first mission. Silently he prayed that John would learn much from this experience.

The new Squire pulled his 1980 Jeep Grand Wagoneer to the curb in front of a rundown wooden cottage that must not have seen new paint in at least twenty years. The yard was overgrown with English ivy that appeared to have swallowed the mailbox standing next to the curb. The house was dark except for the light projected from a television set in the front room. He checked his watch as he approached the front door, it was 7:00 pm. He felt uncomfortable and wanted to get this over with as fast as possible.

Through an old window screen and sheers, he could make out the figure of an old woman sitting in front of a television. From the volume, he assumed Mrs. Robertson was quite deaf. It took two heavy knocks to rouse her. He watched as she looked from her chair toward the door, reached for her cane and struggled to her feet. It must have taken her two minutes to cover the short distance. She seemed bent and crippled with arthritis.

Mrs. Robertson opened the heavy front door, which was behind an old screen door and inquired, "Who is it?" Her voice was an airy whisper of a person that had been in a long struggle, but the sound was pleasantly high pitched and musical. Her bent back gave the impression that she was much smaller than she was.

"I am John Conrady, ma'am. I was asked to deliver some groceries to you at this address. Here is a card for you."

Mrs. Robertson opened the screen and took the card.

"Well! Who would do such a kind thing for me?"

Ma'am, there is an Order of Christian Knights that wanted you to have these. Where can I set them?"

Mrs. Robertson turned on the porch light and looked at John in a cautious way. John just wanted to get it over without being rude.

"Come in and set them on the kitchen table."

John entered the house and noted that it had a musty smell of old carpets and drapes. The house was simple, decorated with a few inexpensive pieces of porcelain and needed a good dusting. The kitchen sink had several unwashed dishes in it that had been there a few days. There was a half-eaten candy bar and half a jar of peanuts on the counter. Mrs. Robertson was wearing a simple housedress that had been worn far too often and she had a frayed sweater draped over her shoulders to keep the fall chill from her small frame. The house felt cold. He set the groceries on the table and nearly crushed Mrs. Robertson's gray cat that had been lounging there. It escaped the disaster with a loud yowl. John had been quite startled, but more amused than frightened.

The elderly woman scolded the cat in her quiet voice, while shaking a crooked finger in its direction. She muttered something about cats not being allowed on the kitchen table.

In the light of the kitchen Mrs. Robertson began looking into the bags while John started taking things out and setting them on the table. Mrs. Robertson looked at each item as if it was a Christmas present, but a lovely smile came to her face when she discovered the cologne. She looked up, clutching the bottle, and said, "Oh! This is wonderful. I haven't had a new bottle of cologne since Raymond died."  

A tear ran down her cheek as she opened the colonge and sniffed the fragrance.

"It smells lovely!"

She dabbed a little on the back of her hand.

John was immediately afraid he was going to cry. Mrs. Robertson looked so frail but the change in her mood from a depressed air to the lady standing before him with radiant eyes was remarkable. It struck him deep within his soul and he had to turn away. That so simple an act could bring such a feeling of joy was an awesome thought.

"Let me do these few dishes and help you put the groceries away, ma'am?"

The dishwashing was something he never would have volunteered to do, but he had to hide his face. He was embarrassed.

"Oh, you are so kind. I will fix us a soda."

"Please, don't go to any trouble, I really can't stay but a minute."

"I never have company and you are a very kind young man. I want to do something for your kindness too. Have a soda with me, please."

John had gotten his emotions in check but his eyes welled up and would not stop.

Every word that came from this lady somehow captured his heart. He had come on an errand and was now embarrassing himself by getting involved, and now she was wanting to give him something back, something simple, but thoughtful. This was sad, tragic, lovely, kind and beautiful all rolled into one incredible experience. The emotions kept swelling as his heart went out to this frail old woman.

Soon he had cleaned the counter too and was working on dusting the pictures and table. The refrigerator was shockingly empty and what was there was old with many jars sealed with plastic and rubber bands. The smell was not fresh either, it took him awhile to clean it.

Mrs. Robertson had initially fussed about the boy cleaning up, but John said that everybody needs a little help now and then, and it would only take a minute. It was easier for him to do it than her. She had agreed with his simple logic.

Mrs. Robertson was now sitting at the dining room table still clutching the cologne and talking about Raymond. She would laugh and her eyes would dance and John just kept cleaning, occasionally commenting or laughing at something she would say. He was afraid to sit and look at her. It was more than he could bear. The lady's spirit seemed to rally as she lost herself in old stories. The airy whisper of a voice seemed to have found some source of power that somehow made the old woman John had met at the door become a little younger in his estimation. She was truly enjoying herself and his company.

She talked about her first date with Raymond, in a horse-drawn buggy! They were going to a revival but the horse had been eating clover and…. She laughed till she had more tears running down her face. It was a great story and John had found himself laughing as much at Mrs. Robertson's pleasure as his own. She heaped praise on John for every little thing he would do, from dusting to replacing a burned-out bulb. He was not accustomed to hearing so many compliments or being so appreciated.

John finished his second soda and departed Mrs. Robertson's, assuring her that he would come visit again sometime. They parted as old friends and it was difficult to leave her, knowing that this was probably the only company she had had in her home in months. She was a kind, lonely woman that needed a friend.

Her final words to him were, "God bless you for your kindness." She had watched him drive away from the porch of her home.

John cried all the way home; he never felt better about himself in his life. It was 9:15 pm.

The next morning, as John prepared for school, he slipped on the funky clothing common to his peers and was about to leave when he spotted the lapel pin. He removed it from the collar of the shirt and looked at it. He thought he would take it with him to school. He placed it on the T-shirt but it didn't seem right. John carefully removed the pin and placed it in his pocket. All day, he would find the pin and study it and remember Mrs. Robertson's transformation. He walked a little taller, a little prouder and realized, he too had had a transformation. That evening, he called Colonel Peterson.

"Sir Donald, this is John Conrady, your Squire."

"Yes, John."

"Please call me Squire, Sir."

"Of course, Squire. What else can I do for you?"

"Nothing, Sir. I just felt I should call you. You made Mrs. Robertson very happy."

"No Squire, WE made Mrs. Robertson happy. Thank you for doing your part well. Let's do it again soon."

"Yes, Sir. I look forward to it."

As the Colonel hung up, he smiled and turned to his bride of twenty-five years and said with a wink, "This one will do."