No Veteran’s Day went by Perry Holstrom unnoticed. For this was the day he paused to remember Curt Brownlee, an Iraqi War veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Curt served three tours of duty in Iraq. But it was the memory of one particularly horrible afternoon during the operation in Fallujah that refused to let his mind rest. His best friend, Don Newburg, was hit by flying shrapnel and bled to death as he was being helicoptered out despite all Curt’s and the medical team’s efforts to save his life.
“I’ve been haunted every day of my life since that day,” Curt told Perry as his eyes became fixed on the highly polished wooden floor. “What’s there to be joyful about? Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving…they’re all just another day to me.” Another day filled with having to relive Don’s death in repetitive, agonizing detail. Another day filled with the thought of a man who has taken personal responsibility for the death of his friend.
Then a meeting with Don’s sister and father changed everything for Curt. “Don’s sister, indeed, entire extended family, loved him immensely,” she told him. “But he would constantly tell all of us about living our lives to the fullest and moving on with our lives. Don would never have wanted his family or friends to grieve for life over his death. He would want us to celebrate his life—all of the good times and to know that he has gone home—his true home! My family and I have prayed for him and released Don to the hands of Jesus who prepared a place for him. Don is now with Him and is eternally happy, Curt. Don would want you to be happy and to do the same as we’ve done.”
The meeting with Don’s sister set Curt on the road to a freedom he had not experienced since Iraq. On that day, curt began to understand his Christianity and what it meant to have a relationship with God. Curt also began to ask God to help him forgive himself for failing to do all he could to save his friend’s life. In time, Curt was able to let go of his guilt that held him in bondage.
To Perry Holstrom, it was a great gift to see his friend, Curt Brownlee, begin to celebrate life again and live it to the fullest. And as Curt did, Perry said a prayer of thanksgiving for Curt, Don’s family and to the One Whose victory over death more than two thousand years ago has truly made everyone free if the would listen to His Voice in their hearts!