Steve Dolph still gets choked up every time he hears his daughter recite her poem, "American Soldier."
"I'm not afraid to admit it," the Le Mars resident said softly. "Morgan really captured what it feels like being a soldier and being away from everything that you know and everyone that you love."
Dolph served in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserve's 129th Transportation Co. of Olathe, Kan., and returned from Al Asad, Iraq, in September 2005 after a second deployment with the 482nd Transportation Co. in Cherokee.
"The emotions Morgan described resonate with so many people," Dolph said of his daughter. "Morgan's words really left an impact on them, too."
But if the spirited 15-year-old had her way, nobody would have seen "American Soldier."
"I was 13 years old when I wrote the poem," Morgan said. "My dad had just been deployed for a second time and I wanted to write down exactly what I was feeling."
"It was for my own peace of mind," she said, "and not for any one else to see."
Morgan put her writing away.
"Actually, I had forgotten I had written it," she said.
But Morgan's mom soon discovered "American Soldier."
"I'm still not sure how she found it, and I'm still not sure if I'm happy she found it," Morgan said. "But it really showed what was going through my head and the emotions that I felt."
Morgan's poem shows the mixed emotions of having a soldier as a parent from the point-of-view of a child.
"You don't know what it's like ... no one does," the poem reads. "Not my friends or my teachers or ... anyone."
"How do I fight this pain?" the poem asks. "I don't."
"When you're a kid, things always seem hopeless," Morgan said. "None of the decisions are up to you. But then you suddenly realize the decisions aren't up to him either."
"He may not like the decisions that are being made," she said, "but he has a job to do because he's an American soldier."
Morgan said her mom and her younger brother, Kyle, were helpful when her dad was away.
"My mom and brother gave me a shoulder to cry on when times got tough," she said. "My mom made an interesting point. When my dad was away, I was only losing thing: my dad. But when my dad was away, he was losing everything he knew."
"That helped to put everything in perspective," she said.
lt also helped Morgan to realize the commitment her dad was willing to make.
"He was willing to put everything on the line because he was proud to serve his country," she said. "And he was willing to put everything on the line to protect the people that he loves."
Morgan's experience taught her to respect and honor not only her dad but other soldiers and their families.
"They may be going through the hardest times of their lives too," she said.
Morgan said she's surprised at how people have reacted to "American Soldier."
"It was such a personal thing for me, but I guess it does resonate with the experiences of others going hrough the same thing," she said.
After having heard the poem again at Le Mars' recent Memorial Day Parade, Morgan said she, too, fought back her tears.
"I guess it still resonates with me, too," she said.