A U.S. citizen born in Switzerland while his parents were vising the old country, August Rübel, owner of Rancho Camulos from 1924 onward, served in the American Field Service —
the noncombatant volunteer ambulance corps — in both World War I (France) and World War II (North Africa). After the United States entered World War I in 1917, the AFS became a component
of the U.S. Army. Rübel was killed in North Africa on April 28, 1943, when his ambulance hit a German land mine.
Exactly when Rübel penned this letter is unknown. It was published in the Ventura Star-Free Press eight days before his death.
Click to enlarge.
Taken from Ventura Star-Free Press of April 20, 1948.
Editor, The Star-Free Press
This article was written aboard a transport bound for Africa by Mr. Rubel in answer to an argument several of the men in the unit were trying to solve. Thought you might like to print same.
Mary J. Rubel.
Why Are We Here?
We want to own our own souls. In that simple fact are encompassed the reasons why home ties, business, family and loved ones must be left for a space or forever by men still free to make such choice. There will be changes while we are gone and more changes after the nightmare is over, but clearly within all change in our great country will ring out this simple fact: We will own our own souls.
Business changes and regulation will come. We will fret over them, but we will conform to them. They are only the window dressing. Political forms and fancies may change our earlier accepted preferences, but that still does not penetrate to the essential of the right to be oneself. That right is being denied to other millions of peoples, some by force, others by their own acquiescence and desire to hew us to their form. These latter are our enemies. The struggle is the clash of the ways of life. It is they or we; there can be no compromise.
Our great melting pot, the crucible, which, charged with a diversity of freedom-seeking peoples, continues to pour forth individuals cast as a homogenous nation, has two outstanding characteristics; humor and a certain petulant impatience with authority. A people who can laugh collectively at their own shortcomings in a free electorate composed of individuals who resent encroachment by unwarranted authority possesses a safety valve assuring continuance of essential freedoms. Men and women who retain the right to praise, criticize, or change government, to worship as each sees fit, to think each one's own thoughts, to exist in human dignity and to lead each one's own home life, trace the pattern, even the goal, of many silent millions the world over.
But it is not directly for these silent millions that we have now uprooted ourselves. Our aim is selfishly present; the immediate concern of lives now in being. The fight for our way of life presses close, there is no pageantry, no false chivalry, no catch phrases about saving the world. We are out to save ourselves, and those of us who do their necessary work at home pursue the same relentless purpose. That the way will be hard and long, we already know, but fail we cannot, if life is to be worth the living. In victory we shall have defended our rights to our own being, and in so doing will have cast a rainbow presaging a better world. There is work to be done.
August A. Rubel