United States Army Sergeant Julian Allen was seriously injured during an early morning patrol to clear Republican Guard units from the Baghdad, Iraq area. Through all of the action, the medical team was able to evacuate Sergeant Allen within a matter of minutes. While in flight, the Sergeant’s circumstance worsened. Accurately assessing the situation, Chaplain Joseph Carolla hastened to Sergeant Allen’s side.
“Father, I’m not going to make it. Could you give me last rites, please?”
As he said these words, Sergeant Allen moved his injured hand toward his chest pocket revealing a brown leather card holder. He handed it to the Chaplain. “Father, would you give this to my wife? I made this up in the event I didn’t make it home.”
Having carefully accepted the item, Chaplain Carolla opened the holder revealing picture of the Sergeant Allen with a woman and two children. There also was a 14K gold Maltese cross bound in a double plastic container on the left side and an inscription of the left. The inscription was worded: “Death does not extinguish life. Rather, it is transformed to a new more precious life—Julian.”
“I will take this personally to your family, Sergeant.”
“Thank you, Father. These things have been special to me since I had it made last year.”
After Chaplain Carolla administered last rites, Sergeant Allen breathed his last. The medical team sent to evacuate him began weeping as did the chaplain. He crossed his wounded hands across his body. He remained with him until their landing.
As he completed his incident report, Chaplain Carolla stated to the Brigade Commander: “Though I did not know Sergeant Allen all that well, I believe these gifts to his wife is also a gift to me; those who knew him for whatever length as well as to his wife. We are presented with this cross to remind us of the faith that we share. A faith that believes that God can take death and transform it into life. I do not know he lived his faith by his presence at Mass. I do remember that he boldly shared his faith with other members without coercion and seemingly with joy.”
Once Chaplain Carolla returned to the United States, he delivered the leather cardholder to Sergeant Allen’s widow. “Mrs. Allen, I knew Sergeant Allen, for a brief period of time. In that time, I came to learn that he was a good person. I gave him last rites before he died. Though he did not say the words, I could see the love for you and his children in his eyes when he gave this leather holder to me. I believe he expects to meet with you again in heavenly happiness. This cross is sturdy as is the man behind the gift.
Accepting the leather card holder in both hands, Terri Allen held them to her heart as tears streamed past her checks. “This is an extremely difficult time for me and the children. They are very young and do not yet understand that their father is not coming home. I will tell them about their father. I can tell you that he was a very good man, provider and father. Though everything hurts now, I know God is with us. Thank you for Justin gift to us. I’ve learned that death doesn’t put out the light. It just overpowers the lamp because the dawn has just arrived in all of its Majesty!”