I have fought
the good fight
I have finished the race
I have kept the faith
2 Timothy 4:7
The flags on post flew at half-staff yesterday in honor in honor of an officer killed recently in Iraq. I attended the memorial service yesterday morning at the main post chapel. The chapel was packed with fellow soldiers, neighbors and chapel members. The mourners new hims as a husband, a father, a friend, a brother in arms and a brother in Christ. He was remembered as a strong but humble man of faith, love and courage. He and his family have been deeply involved in the chapel community, and it was great to see the members of their Sunday School classes and youth group surround them with love on such a difficult day. The love of friends and neighbors even brought some smiles to the faces of the family members as we shared a post-service meal together. I imagine that’s what he would have wanted, because I know that’s what I would want. More than anything else, should my family ever find itself in the same situation, I want my family to be happy and whole again.
We usually praise the courage of the soldiers in uniform who give their life on the battlefield, as well we should. We should also praise the courage of the spouses and children who send their soldiers off to war. It’s a terrible thing to wait and worry, and it’s even more terrible to have a casualty notification officer and a chaplain arrive at your door with the news you never want to hear.
The officer will be buried in far away in his home state. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested contributions be made to Army Emergency Relief in order to help other soldiers and their family members. Yesterday, as the family left for the memorial service, they remembered to bring two “Operation Christmas Child” boxes to the chapel where we were collecting them. They wanted to make sure that these little gifts for children in need didn’t get overlooked. Even in their grief, they are thinking of others.
The family has been a tower of strength in the midst of their pain. Or maybe, more appropriately, they know the tower of strength. Two days ago, the family released this statement to the public:
The family of [officer’s name] would like to express their sincere thanks and gratitude to the many friends and loved ones who have shown so much support to them in their time of loss. He dedicated his life to the service of God, family and country. He made a huge difference in the lives of all those he touched. He demonstrated that conviction by volunteering for the post in Iraq. He knew the dangers of being in harm’s way. Yet, he remained committed to securing the future of our own children by defeating forces of hatred and violence and showing people what is possible if they embrace tolerance and peace. He laid down his life as he lived it, in the name of Love.
In the “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” William Holden plays a Navy pilot who deeply loves his family. His greatest fear in combat is not pain or death itself, but the deeper, more terrifying fear of never seeing his wife or child again. And yet, he does his duty, ultimately at the cost of his own life. At the end of the movie, the commander of the carrier group thinks about the lives lost, looks out to sea and asks, “Where do we get such men?” It’s a moving moment.
Where do we get such men, indeed? And where do such men find such women, and how do they raise such children? And can we ever treat these precious gifts they all give us with the respect they deserve? We owe it to all soldiers and their family members to appreciate and use this gift wisely.
Please keep the families of all the fallen in your prayers.