Excepts from an essay written recently by Farris Hassan, 16, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who traveled to Iraq without telling his parents:

There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. You are aware of the heinous acts of the terrorists: Women and children massacred, innocent aid workers decapitated, indiscriminate murder. You are also aware of the heroic aspirations of the Iraqi people: liberty, democracy, security, normality. Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help ... So I will.

Life is not about money, fame, or power. Life is about combating the forces of evil in the world, promoting justice, helping the misfortunate, and improving the welfare of our fellow man. Progress requires that we commit ourselves to such goals. We are not here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves, but to serve each other and the creator. What deed is greater than sacrificing one's luxuries for the benefit of those less blessed? ...

I know I can't do much. I know I can't stop all the carnage and save the innocent. But I also know I can't just sit here ...

I feel guilty living in a big house, driving a nice car, and going to a great school. I feel guilty hanging out with friends in a cafe without the fear of a suicide bomber present. I feel guilty enjoying the multitude of blessings, which I did nothing to deserve, while people in Iraq, many of them much better then me, are in terrible anguish. This inexorable guilt I feel transforms into a boundless empathy for the distress of the misfortunate and into a compassionate love for my fellow man ...

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless the one who gives them.

Going to Iraq will broaden my mind. We kids at Pine Crest (School) live such sheltered lives. I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress. I also want to immerse myself in their environment in order to better comprehend the social and political elements ...

I plan on doing humanitarian work with the Red Cross. I will give my mind, body, and spirit to helping Iraqis rebuild their lives. Hopefully I will get the chance to build houses, distribute food supplies, and bring a smile or two to some poor children.

I know going to Iraq will be incredibly risky. There are thousands of people there that desperately want my head. There are millions of people there that mildly prefer my demise merely because I am American. Nevertheless, I will go there to love and help my neighbor in distress, if that endangers my life, so be it ...

If I know what is needed and what is right, but do not act on my moral conscience, I would be a hypocrite. I must do what I say decent individuals should do. I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets. Therefore, I must go.