One week ago today, I attended a memorial service for a complete stranger. He was a stranger to me but not to his country, his family or his friends. He was a warrior. He was killed on August 6, 2011 when his elite special operations team was engaging in a helicopter assault in Afghanistan and their helicopter was shot down, killing everyone on board. Our country lost 30 of the “best of the best” soldiers that day, which has been labeled the “deadliest incident” in Operation Enduring Freedom.
This particular soldier, Technical Sergeant John W. Brown, was a Para rescue man (PJ), and grew up in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I didn’t know him. I didn’t go to school with him. But, two of my good friends did. In fact, Tech Sergeant Brown had carried the casket of my good friend’s late brother.
So, why did I go to the memorial service if I didn’t know him you ask…
Well, I have never been to a memorial service for a fallen US soldier. I have family members who served, and thankfully they have all come home safe and sound. I wanted to go and pay my respects. I wanted to pray with the family as the pastor prayed over them. I wanted to find a way to say, “Thank-you!” for serving our nation in such a great and selfless capacity. I thought I might be able to use my camera to capture memories to help comfort the family.
With all these expectations in my head, I just sat there frozen in my seat. My camera was lying in my lap the whole time; therefore, I have very few pictures to even prove I was there. It was clear to me that pictures and words could not even begin to epitomize the sacrifice of this soldier and the others that perished on August 6th. The slightest noise was detracting from his due respect, and the shutter of my camera would be much too loud that evening.
So I sat there that night and listened to speaker after speaker testifying to the strong, godly character of this man. He knew God. He knew his calling. He knew his Savior Jesus Christ. He knew God’s word. He knew how to treat and care for people. He loved his wife and family. He knew and lived out the Bible verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 NIV. He bled for this county. He died for this country.
WOW! That’s still overwhelming to me. He was a stranger to me, and yet he went and fought for me. I really don’t know how to say thank-you enough to ALL the US service men and women, both past and present, for their daily sacrifices for my freedom. They deserve our daily sacrifice of living in a manner worthy of their efforts to maintain the freedoms we have in this country. They don’t serve in vain; they don’t die in vain… but too often I see stories in the news about citizens living in vain. Unfortunately, I am one of them at times.
I can only hope to inspire others to take time and reflect about what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. The cost of our freedom has never been free. We have responsibilities. Tech Sergeant Brown knew his calling – live for God and country. Do you know yours?
Devoted Believer. Blessed Wife & Mother. Degreed Engineer. Passionate Photographer.