Friday, May 6, 2011
I called the mother of a slain Marine today - why I did & what happened
Funeral services for my good friend and teammate, Johnny Linde - Arlington National Cemetery.
It is with some trepidation I'm posting what is essentially a very personal and private glimpse into my life today. I pray that the eyes of spiritual sensitivity be opened, and that the damning and coarse nihilist thoughts and/or comments be not allowed to anyone who sees this one blog. I do not wish to cast my pearls before swine.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. the Mormon or LDS faith, I served a volunteer mission for two years prior to joining the military. I'm active in my faith. Most importantly, I try to be a good person, and a good citizen. I try to think of holy things throughout my day.
Just as we need food and water for nourishment, our souls need regular spiritual attention. If we fail to eat or exercise, our bodies will become weak and our muscles will atrophy. The same applies to our spiritual muscles.
Just as we need healthy minerals and sunshine, we need good role models to look up to, to emulate. Our children especially need good heroes. We need heroes and heroines who stand for something. I tend to look to the heroes of the Bible and the Book of Mormon--Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Some of my heroes are America's Founding Fathers -- those who made a solemn oath to give their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor to preserve their freedoms (and ours)...Thomas Jefferson and those great men who crafted the United States Constitution.
I feel as did a modern day prophet and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said this: "I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments. When that is my feeling, I am not going to go very far away from the Constitution, and I am going to try to keep it where the Lord started it..." (George A. Smith [CR-4/48:182])
A very good friend of mine who served as a Marine in the early 70's often reminds me of a young Marine at boot camp with him. A very large and mean Drill Instructor walked up to this scrawny recruit and screamed in a demanding, controlling and intimidating tone, "WHO'S YOUR HERO, PRIVATE?!"
Now most people under such a circumstance would tend to revert to anything that would please such a person, even resorting to instant sycophancy (e.g. in 1970's USMC third person speak, "Sir, the Private thinks his Drill Instructor is his most admirable hero, sir.")
But that didn't happen. No, the young man with faith and courage stated resolutely that his hero was "The Lord Jesus Christ."
Upon that, the giant DI slugged him as hard as he could (they could do that and get away with it back then). The boy fell back hard on the floor, all the wind gushing out of his lungs and completely, utterly unashamed, he regained his footing.
"What did you say..." The intimidating drill sergeant demanded, adding again, "Who's your hero?"
At this point, most people would think to say something else, or even remain silent on the matter. But this courageous man, valiant in his testimony and faithful and unwavering in his stance -- even and especially amid, fierce opposition -- replied again that his hero was the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, that said -- with that story in mind -- I'm going to post something that is personal and sacred to me. I hope that even if some people mock it, that others will remember that I have a testimony that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the First Fruits of the Resurrection. For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Now, here are my words, personally recorded in my journal entry this, the sixth day of May, two thousand and eleven.
I had brisk, but wonderful, deeply touching -- spiritual -- experience today. I had the thought (I didn't feel it was an impression from the Lord at the time), to contact the mother of a young Marine who was killed in Afghanistan last October. Looking back I had the distinct feeling to ask a coworker of mine who knew her son well, to get her phone number. I didn't ask him. Usually I don't hesitate, but as I mentioned, I didn't feel this was an impression. In fact, I didn't even know why I should contact her, really, or what I'd say. Fortunately, however, I did make an inquiry about the name of this family to the aforementioned coworker. (Hopefully this preface isn't too confusing.)
When I was allotted a few moments of peace, the thought to contact this military mom came again. I called 4-1-1 information and asked for their home phone number.
I stammered a little bit on what to say, as I later learned that the boy's fiancee first answered the phone (they graduated high school in 2009 and were supposed to be married in this June after his military tour). Finally, when Ms. XXXXXX picked up the other line, I gathered my thoughts and spoke. I don't remember what I said. All I remember was I wanted to say, "I love you." Doing so to a perfect stranger could be a bit socially awkward, so I didn't say that. Regardless, she felt the love I wanted to share.
Through our conversation, I felt this fine woman was indeed my sister and God's daughter. She told me, from what sounded like through tears, that she was humbly grateful for me calling her and saying what I said. From her response, I gathered that my words comforted her. Especially today. She told me that today was her son's birthday. He would have been 20 years old. She said his fiancee-widow and her were going to go out and celebrate it.
It was at that point that the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that all the previous feelings were of a spiritual nature, and not of myself. I was overcome with gratitude, love, and the realization that God knows each of us personally, and that, by and large, He works His mighty miracles through each of us -- as well as the small miracles like having a total stranger call you up and say, in so many words, "Our Father in Heaven is aware of how you're feeling today, and He wants you to know He loves you and cares for you."
Every intense feeling of my heart -- all the pure, unspeakable joys that come from heaven alone -- sank deep into my heart. And, like the rainbow cannot shine or show its full glory without the rain, I shed a tear or two, simultaneously experiencing the beautiful array of warm and bright feelings from the sunshine in my heart.
Finally, on a somewhat different, but related note, I was able to find a beautiful quote I have known about for several years, but did not have a reference to. I think it's proper and fitting to close with then-Elder Ezra Taft Benson's beautiful expression and explanation of all those who come home after this life is over. Said he, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us." (Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," Brigham Young University Speeches on 10 December 1974.)
God is indeed our Father, and that makes us brothers and sisters. To read about another very personal and powerful experience of mine I had while in Iraq, check out my profile on Mormon.org: http://mormon.org/me/2GXB/Jeffrey