The pain is still there

The death of an American soldier in combat is painful. The agony of loss is heart-wrenching. I’ve looked at the faces of the dead, those who were beside me talking only a few moments ago.

I’ve looked in the faces of their friends; for some, friends for years: through basic training, AIT, and a first assignment together. These are friends who were in pain. Their grief was visible. Sometimes is came out in anger, sometimes in laughter, sometimes in tears, sometimes in rigid features that could not express the pain.

I’ve looked in the faces of their family members: wives, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and others. Sharing memories with them was an a privilege. Hearing their memories was an even greater privilege.

Those men weren’t angels, but they are heroes. Cut down in the prime of life, they gave it all. None of them awakened thinking it would be a good day to die. Instead, they simply performed their duty, a duty that led them into harm’s way. They fulfilled their sworn duty with the full measure of their lives; they gave it all so I might live in peace.

The pain is still there for the families and the buddies. Yes, my own pain is still there, too. In some sense, it is compounded by knowing that those families and friends bear the pain; I suppose this is a pastor’s calling–to grieve and to bear the grief of others.

If you don’t know someone who gave his life for this country, ask me. I’ll tell you about these honorable men. They were my friends.

In grateful memory of those men of my military flock who died fighting our nation’s enemies:

  • Elias Elias
  • Allen Jaynes
  • Michael Balsley
  • Alexander Fuller
  • Jay Martin
  • Alexander Funcheon
  • Brian Botello
  • Eric Snell
  • Mikeal Miller
  • Jason Fabrizi
  • Tyler Parten
  • Michael Scusa
  • Christopher Griffin
  • Stephan Mace
  • Brian Pedro
  • Nathan Carse
  • Alexander Povilaitis
  • Tristan Wade

Comfort their families and their brothers in arms.


A message from a friend today alerted me to a series of newspaper articles: “For Alex“.

Alex was my friend. I can hardly think of him without tears. He was one of nine men who were killed in combat in Iraq with my unit. All of the Soldiers in that unit were like my family. Every loss was difficult, to say the least. Every time I remember their names and faces, which is often, my heart is wrung.

It has almost been a year since we returned home from 15 months in Iraq. It has almost been two years since the first Soldier, Elias, was killed. I have met some of the Family members of those Soldiers who were killed. I’m not sure if I said anything comforting or intelligible to them. It was very difficult not to break down in front of them. I haven’t plumbed the depths of their grief, and my own must pale in comparison.

I’m slowly beginning to feel normal again, though I’m not sure I’ll ever fully reach it.

My own grief is great, and I have shared the grief of my friends. My grief was compounded by knowing how they suffered from their own grief because of the loss of their friends. I know that the Lord holds all things in his hands, and it is only because of this that I have hope beyond death and grief. Maybe someday, I’ll finally piece together the tribute that I have in mind for those fallen Soldiers.

It was hard leaving the Soldiers of 3-61 CAV a few months ago. I’ll never forget them, and I pray for them still. They were patient with me, their chaplain, and their love was great.

May the Lord comfort all who mourn, and may he give strength to the Families of nine brave men.


On this Memorial Day, I remember nine brave men who gave their all in Iraq in defense of our nation.

Elias Elias

Allen Jaynes

Mike Balsley

Alex Fuller

Brian Botello

Alex Funcheon

Jay Martin

Eric Snell

Mike Miller

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.