Saturday, July 18, 2015
To those who fell
As my wife and I drove though Chattanooga this past Thursday, just after 11:00 o'clock on a muggy July morning, I was completely unaware of the level of terror and mayhem being dispensed with fury that very moment. While we skirted the east side of town, on our way to Roanoke, bedlam erupted some ten miles away, as four unarmed marines were being murdered while three other men sustained wounds. One of the three wounded, Petty Officer Randall Smith, died this morning. A police officer and a marine recruiter are expected to recover. So, in addition to the twenty-three year old father of three, Petty Officer Smith, the following men are no longer with us on this earthly plane: Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, Lance Corporal Skip Wells, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt, and Sergeant Carson Holmquist.
I didn't know them but my heart aches. Like the nine innocent beings who were shot to death in Charleston, South Carolina just a month before, these young men got up on the morning of the last day of their lives with death not even a thought.
Kids, jobs, grocery lists, birthdays, lunch destinations, weekend plans, God, friends - yes.
Death at the hands of consummate evil in the flesh - no.
But don't let me digress into that soul-less, pit-bound, grisly, rotten evil and the so-called human being who breathed and bled that evil. The so-called human being whose name I refuse to type in the same space as five American heroes. There's another time and place for that. And a wise and loving Power beyond my comprehension will handle that issue in good time.
I also don't want to allow my mind to wander to how horrific it must have been for those tried and trained soldiers, including a two-time purple heart recipient, to be in the position of facing an armed enemy with no weapons with which to protect themselves. How absolutely mind-blowing to try to comprehend that after tours in battle zones, after learning how to counter-attack, how to fight fire with fire - in their last battle on this earth, they were left to face death without a fighting chance. To slap at their sides and find nothing there. To be empty handed in the face of mortal conflict.
No I don't want to do that.
What I really want to do here is something personal and self-serving. I want to acknowledge the five men by name, thank God for their lives and service to this country, and rejoice in the knowledge that they have been welcomed with great joy and celebration into the heavenly realm. I want to send bear hugs and love to their families and loved ones. I want to wish them comfort and healing.
I want to pray for the wounded to recover.
And, if I could, one more thing, please.
I want to ask God to instill fresh courage, insight, and wisdom into the elected leadership of this great country, even as it staggers and reels from cancerous divisiveness. Even as it shows the weakening of spirit brought about by too many years of real and hypothetical enemy fire and friendly fire. Even as the cracks widen and deepen in its aging foundation for our lack of strong craftsmen to render repairs. Even as the absolute fiber of this nation unravels because we don't have leadership in place at any level capable of stemming the unraveling and managing the repair.
Some twenty-four hours after the first four young men lost their lives, four sleek black hearses led by state troopers, winded their way north in the inside lane of I-81, along the exact path my wife and I traveled the day before. Just as I had no idea of what was unfolding in Chattanooga as we passed through Thursday morning, I had no idea that we were traveling what would become, at least for some time, hallowed ground. If I had known, I might have found even greater glory in the Blue Ridge mountains ahead of us as they pushed their way through the clouds toward heaven. I might have perceived the green of the endless forests to be a little greener and the blue of the sharp Virginia sky to be a little bluer. For there were, after all, heroes on the way.
So when I pray to God for divine guidance out of this sinkhole we seem to be trapped in, I'm not just doing it for me - or for you. And I'm not just doing for the five most recent casualties of our national illness. I'm praying for our children and their children. And for the children beyond that. I'm praying for our future. I want them to have a better and braver nation than we have. Because, let's face it, we need a better an braver nation. A good deal better and braver.
And, dear God, we need it fast.