I believe that the world needs more people like Rebel Randi Davis Lettau. She has a unique ability to connect with people of any age, race, religion, rank, nationality, ethnic group, and communicate. Equally remarkable is her capacity to listen effectively to someone else. These capabilities stem from a sense of respect for individuals that is absolutely essential for real communication to take place. If national and world leaders had similar respect for each other and were able to communicate as well, the world could be immensely better. Examples of her abilities occurred frequently in our 36 years of marriage, and 20 years of overseas military assignments.
In Saigon, in January of 1973, where she was one of few military wives that visited Viet Nam, she became immediate friends with a 10 year old bamboo whistle entrepreneur that insisted on showing her around the Saigon Zoo and explaining what each animal’s name was in Vietnamese. Even without a common language, the communication was evident.
In Okinawa, in 1972, she had prepared a set of giant gold stars for a visiting colonel due to be promoted at midnight. Her thoughtfulness and discussions with the new Brigadier General made such a positive impression that months later, at PACAF Headquarters in Hawaii, the general said to an aide, “Get that Captain from Kadena, you know, Rebel’s husband.”
In Australia, in 1984, she fit in as a true “mate.” After our sports club had it’s summer windup (celebration) she passed as a native with a well broken in bush hat, dirt smeared face, dusty boots, wearing a cut up potato sack over her shirt, cleaning her fingernails with a 7 inch knife.
During a 2004 reunion, in Wisconsin, several of her grade school classmates talked about how mean girls had been in the 2nd and 3rd grades. When I asked if Rebel had been like that, they agreed that she had been friends with everyone. If Jenny had not been there, Rebel would have offered to share her seat with Forrest Gump.
In Panama, in 1988, where she managed the base riding stable, successfully mediating all manner of disputes and conflicts, between groups and individuals ranging from Panamanian stable hands, to military and civilian dependant children to parents of every disposition. A European lady living in Panama once rightfully remarked that Rebel was one of the truly fascinating people in this world.
In Germany, in 1979, she won numerous friends in the local Gasthaus, with the talent to listen attentively, say at the right moments “Ja, ja, alles klar,” (yes, yes, everything is clear) and properly pronounce, after years of practice, “Ausgezeichnet” (outstanding). Patrons said what excellent German my wife spoke, and when I said that she understood a bit and spoke less, they insisted that I was absolutely wrong, she spoke flawless German.
The bottom line is that people need to communicate to get along. This requires a talent for demonstrating respect for all manners of people, listening to their words and comprehending their meaning. This gift of combining respect with communication, unfortunately rare in our society, and becoming more so, is one of her finest attributes, and one that Rebel shares continuously with the people she meets.
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