If humans could melt Lt. Timothy Marten figured he would have long ago joined the puddle of sweat beneath his feet. It was always hot in Iraq, but the weeks since he had returned from leave had seemed ten times worse. And ten times lonelier. His nephews had grown so much, and would grow so much more before he saw them next.
As if to remind him what he was missing, a little Iraqi girl trotted by, wrinkling her nose in a mischievous grin. She angled toward base, headed to connive candy from a soldier, no doubt. The girl reminded Timothy of why he was here. He had not wanted to come back from his leave; he had wanted to stay with his family. But then the news had reached them of yet another suicide car bombing in Iraq. But this time the bomb had been for a group of innocent children getting candy from US soldiers. Timothy had been angry. He had wept. Then he had finished packing—he would finish the fight.
At the airport the next morning the news had blared in the background; the media yelling that this bombing was proof the military did more harm than good. But the worst part was the glares and whispered, nasty comments from other passengers as they had seen his uniform. He had turned toward his sister Beth, steaming. “Don’t they realize? If the children hadn’t been gathered there the bomb would have been in a school or mosque. I am risking my life to give these people freedom and what do I get?! Glares and hate?”
But Beth had shocked him by responding, “You know, Timothy, you do the same thing.”
“Someone has sacrificed His life for yours and you ignore Him every day. I worry about you over there, Timothy.”
But just then his flight had begun boarding and she had given him a tight hug. “I’ll write you. I love you, bro.”
And she had written. Timothy tugged a postcard out of his pocket, studying it once again. He smiled at the bright picture of an American neighborhood festooned with patriotic flags and yellow ribbons. It was her way of reminding him that, despite the anger he had seen, much of America was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Timothy flipped the card over, though he had it nearly memorized. It was mostly chatty, but she had tucked in that PS. A commotion interrupted Timothy’s reading and he put away the card, this time without finishing it—without reading the last line.
Military vehicles had pulled up. Already they were drawing a crowd of Iraqi children. The children worried Timothy ever since that one bombing. It was a shame they had to be shooed away--the soldiers’ one source of innocence and fun. But that was better than taking a chance.
He saw it coming even as he was striding toward them. The truck was picking up speed, zeroing in on the crowd. Timothy ran, screaming a warning. But the soldiers didn’t look up. The children didn’t turn around. And no one else noticed until was too late.
The world was sucked into an orange explosion of fire. It swallowed Timothy, surrounding him with heat and screams.
Timothy opened his eyes. He felt no pain, nothing. Soon a paramedic leaned over him, “Lieutenant?” The man looked away, a hand over his mouth. Timothy did not try to move, try to check himself over. He knew there must be a gaping hole somewhere, something vital missing.
The medic placed a gentle hand on his forehead. “I’ll be back, OK?”
Timothy thought of Beth. He knew she was praying and suddenly he wished that he could have prayed as he had run. That he could pray now for the children who were injured.
The paramedic returned with a stretcher. “Are you ready?”
Timothy decided then. “Yes, I’m ready.” He was surprised at how strong his voice sounded. “Medic, tell the boys to keep on fighting for the peace those kids deserve. Oh, and Medic? There’s a postcard in my pocket. Will you tell her that--that I’m willing?”
Some time later the medic stood, staring at a postcard. Red stained his medical gloves. Only the last few lines were readable.
Your Sister Beth
P.S. Timothy, you are willing to risk your life for freedom for Americans and Iraqis, but are you willing to turn to Jesus, the One who died for you?
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