It is incredibly hard to Blog about a war when one of your own is lost in battle.
Day before yesterday, we lost Mark Garner, a young man who grew up here in Elkin, was a leader in everyway, married to a wonderful girl whose mother is my friend, who graduated from West Point, who as a local is probably related to the men of 1780 who fought at Kings Mountain. I don't know that about Mark, but I know many people here still trace their ancestry back to those men. He has many cousins, uncles, aunts, as well as his immediate family still here.
There was some talk of burying him at Arlington National Cemetary, but the news says we will have a service for him here at my church and bury him here. We will have to brace ourselves.
He was just home sitting in the Sunday service when our pastor asked for his safe keeping in a list of several young people who are serving in the armed forces around the world. So when the pastor looked up and saw him out there, he brought the fact to our attention that he was home from Iraq with a big smile.
Mark was sent out again to Afghanistan where there is apparently a massive on-going offensive against the opium growers right now. The drug crop, the news says, supplied $70 million dollars to the Taliban. These are the people who harbor Osama Bin Laden and by association are the people who planned and attacked and will probably attack again.
Going to Afghanistan is like the overmountain men leaving home to seek out the British in 1780. You can not attack.
It's ironic that for the past year or so in this very tiny town, and participated in by my pastor's wife, protests against the war in Iraq have occurred once a week. People stand with signs on the corner calling out to cars that pass to encourage the US to stop the war in Iraq and bring the soldiers home. This protest only recently stopped. We felt that President Obama was on the right track to withdraw and let the Iraqis manage there own country's rebirth.
It will not be easy. As you know, in NC, the revolutionary war raged between the local tories and patriots for a least another year after Yorktown in 1781. It took another two years to reach an official peace. It will be similar in Iraq as the factions work it out.
It is all sad. I watched the service for Michael Jackson yesterday after I learned of Mark's death. It was heart-felt and tragic. Mark's death is also tragic. Death of the British and Canadian and other Americans the other day are tragic. Deaths of the Afghan and Iraqi people are tragic.
Wouldn't it be so great to see the treasures of Iraq, the birthplace of human civilization? It should be a tourism capital equal to any. And the Afghan people, we have pictures of them from over the years, they are also a handsome, strong people living in such a rough terrain. Surely, there can be found something besides opium to grow and surely the Taliban can realize that God did not make men more special than women or one people better than another people. We are not infidels. We are cousins in one family.
But, we can not be attacked. And as long as that is a possibility, men will leave to protect their homes and families.
And as Christians, we believe that those who accept the gift of salvation find themselves immediately in the present of God after death. Mark is with God and God is with us.
A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon
and someone at my side says She is gone.
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large now as when I last saw her.
Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her.
And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone,
there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon
and other voices take up a glad shout - There she comes!
That is what dying is.
An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.