On Memorial Day

We are the proud parents of two heroes—Army Infantrymen who have served this country with honor and valor. The Lord has spared us the grief of having to deal with the loss of either one, but each one has paid a great price in their service to this country. They both came back from the war changed men.

Proverbs 18:24 comes to mind when I think about these things: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” One thing I have learned from my sons is the close bond that forms between comrades-in-arms. The battle is not just about their own survival, but the struggle to survive becomes for them a continual fight to protect and watch the back of the man next to them. They live and breathe this existence as they daily face enemy fire. To lose a buddy then, can be absolutely devastating.

Our oldest son still wears a bracelet, which contains the name of Sergeant Hector Leijah, who was killed in Iraq by a sniper, during what has become known as the Battle of Haifa Street. The bracelet, made of blackened aluminum, has become scratched and faded over the past two years, but our son carries Sgt. Leijah’s memory as a daily reminder of that life cut short in service to our country.

Then there are those who have taken the hit and survived—some with visible and some with invisible scars. Our youngest son took a hit in Afghanistan last year. I can still recall the fear and worry we experienced in those first couple of days—not fully knowing the extent of his injuries or what the outcome would be. Thank God, he has pretty much recovered, although his injuries have left him with constant pain and cut short his military career. But it is the invisible scars that most concern me. I cannot begin to understand what my boys have gone through. I get overwhelmed and find myself having to mentally tune out during some of their discussions about their experiences; disturbed by the images of war—of what sound to me like hell on earth—that will live in their minds for the rest of their lives.

Another verse that comes to mind when I think about our country’s heroes is John 15:3: “Greater Love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” I know at the very least, there are two individuals who are still alive in this world because of each of our son’s willingness to risk his life for his friend. Our youngest son is the recipient of a Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing one of his comrades in the midst of enemy fire. He seems a bit embarrassed about the attention given him in this, and I have seen the same humble reaction in both our sons and in other service-members as well—who are thanked or otherwise lauded for their service by grateful citizens. He doesn’t talk much about these things, and to this day, we don’t know the full story of what happened on that day.

Our other son was in a convoy of strikers vehicles. The front vehicle was hit by an IED bomb. He told us the harrowing story of how his men dragged their brother-in-arms from the burning vehicle—his legs badly mangled from the blast—and how they raced through the dark streets of Baghdad with only their navigation screen to guide them. Our son attended to his friend, desperately attempting to stop the bleeding and keep him alert. The toll his friend paid in service to this country was huge; he lost both legs that night. After the incident, our son had no contact with his comrade. Recently, however, they reconnected on facebook and met up. Our son learned that his buddy had flat-lined more than once that night, and had no recollection of anything that happened, except that someone kept yelling at him to stay awake. That was my son.

I am so extremely proud of both of our sons and for all of our service-members, who daily risk life and limb for this country and for our freedoms. I have had a small taste of the worry and agony of being the parent of a son in the line of fire. My heart hurts for the loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate price. I cannot fathom the depth of their sorrow. My biggest concern is that our sons and daughters would be facing down death on a daily basis without God’s love and presence as a bulwark against the enemy of their souls.

Please pray with me that those who are serving would know the truth that sets them free—and the deep love and compassion of God, who renews our hearts and gives us hope. Pray for a revival in our country and within our military. Pray also for those who struggle daily to overcome the emotional and physical challenges of their post-war lives. Finally let’s remember the grieving family members and friends for whom this day is no picnic.

All Scripture references from the NIV

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