Every soldier, sailor, airman and marine on Bagram Air Base not actively engaged in an assigned duty, stood shoulder to shoulder lining the half mile route from the hospital to the air field. There was a quiet, unsettled murmur as folks conversed waiting for the solemn event to begin. Like an unspoken command, the low rumble of the “Humvee” processional issued a silence over the crowd and brought all servicemen to the position of attention. Ever so slowly the vehicles moved their precious cargo to their final flight out of Afghanistan. As they drew nearer to each individual’s position along the road, a hand salute was rendered, moving down the line in a slow, wave like motion. We would remain that way until the processional moved past.
I looked on in the stoic position of “Present Arms” and counted 1…2…3… until the 18th Humvee, turned carriage, passed by me. I gazed upon the American Flag draped and secured over the metal boxes where my comrades lay silently; ushered along to their flight home. They were riding feet first now, but I knew that they would be loaded on the aircraft head first, as a sign of respect to our lost friends; so that they should be known to all, as those who did not flee: their feet shall be the last things to leave the battlefield.
None of them awoke that morning and understood that this day was the day they would give their last full measure of devotion; that it would be the last sunrise they would see and yesterday was the last sunset. They did not know their loved ones would be devastated that day and that a child would cry for daddy that night, and that an answer would never come again. They did not know that day, that the their last breath would escape their lungs in a final cry that no one but each other would ever hear. They did not know the hour or the day that the Lord would call them home.
Watching as they past by me, I knew that they would have to make just one more flight and at the end of this one, many families would die a little right along side those that were landing at Andrews.
They gave the last full measure of devotion. They did not know that day was the day they would pay the price of your freedom. Their families did not know their world would come to a crashing end so that yours might go on normally. They died as they lived, on the wings of freedom; now their souls are carried home on the wings of God.
Maybe the Lord just needed a few more good soldiers.
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