For the last week, we've been in a funk. We received word that our close friend, Beth, lost her brother last week in Iraq. For a connection, Beth was the one who came to Guatemala twice to visit. She and her husband, Mike, are the leaders of the ministry called Damascus Road that we're apart of. More than ministry partners, they are our dear friends.
Up to this point, I haven't truly been personally affected by the war. I want to be careful how that comes across, as people are very sensitive about the whole issue, but it isn't hard to turn off the news and go about regular life. It's been going on so long and seems so far away that I even forget it's happening sometimes. I would even admit that I'm so obsessed with my own life that I can easily dismiss the war. I don't read the newspaper and rarely watch the news past the weather reports. Then we got a phone call.
For the rest of the morning I caught myself crying a lot. I would just get overwhelmed for Beth and it would start. I cannot even begin to imagine what she feels. To imagine the military car pulling up to her mom's house that morning letting them know the happenings of their only son or to imagine Beth lying on the ground as Mike shared the news brings tears instantly.
Many of us got together that night to pray for them and to brainstorm on how to support them in this while they were back east with family. As we prayed people confessed their anger at the war, at the government. For me, confusion is greater than anger in this situation. Especially after Beth saying that Erick used to frequently say things like, "Don't believe what you hear from the media, we're doing really good things here."
Rather than go into politics and sharing the emotional details of the last week, I'd rather try to honor Erick. Today is his funeral and since we couldn't be apart of it, I want to do something. The news stories only went as far as Pennsylvania so I want to at least spread his story a little further than that.
Beth's entire family was in St. Louis a few weeks ago while Erick was on leave and we got to meet them all. As we were being introduced to Erick he kept smiling at Eliot and kept saying how happy he was for us that we were finally home. What? Hi, You live in Iraq while I'm laying out in the Central American sun for a short time and you're turning the focus onto me? I mean, really? It was one of those conversations where you're so completely amazed by the person you're talking to because you know they have so much more going on in their life yet the entire conversation has gone by and all you've talked about is yourself. He just kept asking questions about the adoption process and living in Guatemala. Meanwhile, he's been at war. Sure, that time should be spent on me. Hmmmm.
While I won't pretend to know how the system of rankings go, I do know that Erick was in charge of a unit of men. He's high up enough to have two men at his side at all times (and at age 29? What?) He was also highly honored with an amazing collection of medals. Normally that might cause some pride or arrogance but on the contrary, Erick was extremely humbled and took the responsibility of his men very seriously. Here are some excerpts from the news articles in Pennsylvania over the last week.
*Foster’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, the Parachutist’s Badge, and the Ranger Tab.
*Robert Foster described his only son as "the best of the best" – telling Mary Robb Jackson that he was at "the tip of the sword in the pursuit of Al-Qaeda."
One of your questions might be, "how did he die?" Without dishonoring any of the deaths that happen in Iraq, I have to say that Erick's death was something to be amazed at. He was shot in action. Despite what anti-war/anti-Bush groups may say, there's legitimate action going on there daily. Erick was a part of those front lines and no doubt deserved every one of those medals they awarded him. I can't imagine the stories behind each one of them, as I know the military doesn't hand them out flippantly.
To reduce it down to a very basic, bottom line: Erick was in charge of getting the bad guys (the really bad guys) and he did it well. He is one of the many we can thank for our daily lives.