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The heart of a soldier

Daily Staff Report

I recently drove to Denver to attend a Valentine’s Day dance … not that I can dance. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m rhythmically impaired. But I didn’t go to dance or even because it was Valentine’s Day. I went to honor a friend, Mark, who is shipping out to Iraq. Mark and his wife, Sherri, helped organize the dance for their church. Our small group of friends thought the dance would be a good place to meet. It’s hard to wax morbid at a dance decorated with pink and red hearts. Plus, Mark was leaving two days after the dance. We were cutting it close.Truthfully, all of us had hoped and prayed this day would not come, especially Sherri. In December, it looked to us,as if Mark’s Guard unit would not be called up. Wishful thinking! After all, Mark’s unit had already served in New Orleans cleaning up after Katrina. Plus, Mark’s son, a Marine, fought in the initial assault to free Baghdad and returned home safely only by the grace of God. We all figured that was enough.Mark, however, didn’t. Despite the fact that Mark doesn’t have to go to Iraq, he’s going. You see, he’s 48 and has over thirty years in the Guard and the Army combined. He has risen to the rank of Major. None of us, his friends and family, would even blink if he retired. If we were him, we would retire. Not Mark. I asked him why not. He said he couldn’t. He had prepared his whole life for this moment. This was part of what God had created him for. Looking in his brown eyes and knowing him for the last thirty years, I knew it was true. He didn’t mean this battle-o-Iraq specifically. He meant to serve his country, not just in the easy ways and easy times. But, if need be, to die. Mark’s a dedicated soldier, educated, intelligent, committed. He never comes more alive than when talking about serving God by protecting his family, his friends, his country. He had not served these thirty years to retire and collect a pension. Asking him to retire when his country called him and needs him would be like asking a lion to shave its mane.Not that all of us friends gathered that night “believe” in this war … or any war for that matter. But as we danced, talked, laughed and did everything except think about the possibility this may be the last time we would see Mark, we didn’t talk about that. It’s funny; instead we talked about our kids, past events and the many threads God has used to knit a beautiful friendship over the years. We danced. We stood teary eyed as the band played, in honor of Mark, the Jim Hendrix version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” except this time, it felt not in your face but I’ve got your back. After that, in an act of pure bravery or insanity, Mark joined the band and sang “Mack the Knife.” He claims it’s the only song he knows and can sing. We laughed so hard our faces ached. Then Mark slipped out of the lime light and, while the band played on, we circled up, arm in arm, heads bowed toward one another’s hearts and prayed. God, use Mark to bring peace, protect him, bring him home safe, alive. Surround him with your love and wisdom. Walk with Sherri and his kids during this time. Give her peace and protection and the ability to lean on you. Words then failed, but not our hearts. We are with you Mark, Sherri, and all the others serving whose names we don’t know. But more than anything, may God be with you. And may we all serve our families, friends and country with the unselfish, sacrificial bravery and integrity that you do. Thanks!Eugene C. Scott is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Their services meet on Sundays at 8 a.m. in the Beaver Creek Chapel and 11 a.m. in the Vail Interfaith Chapel. You can reach Scott at Eugene@connectcpc.com or 477-0383.Vail, Colorado


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