Honoring a Fallen Hero

Reality has a way of shaking all of us out of the lethargy of the comfortable life of freedom we all experience here in the good ole U. S. of A. Turning onto Highway 80 on the way back from lunch I noticed a fire truck sitting in a rather unusual location. “That’s odd,” I thought, but then it dawned on me why. Today, a hero was returning to town, but not in the way everyone had planned. Crowds of people were parking on either side of the four-lane and hurrying to their positions along the grassy shoulders with American flags of all sizes in hand.

Police cars were positioned at every intersection, ready to move into position and block off the traffic on command. They were awaiting a hearse bearing the flag draped coffin of a fallen warrior on his return from an unpronounceable battlefield located in a foreign country halfway around the world.

The feeling that overwhelmed me at that moment was one I had experienced only once before almost 18 years ago, as the small navy skiff pulled up and I stepped out onto the U. S. S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Now, like then, I was overcome, almost choking on the surge of raw emotions. Tears filled my eyes, and for a moment I couldn’t get my breath, as waves of grief washed over me and I struggled to keep my truck on the road. As quickly as it had welled up it was gone, and a peace descended marked by a deep and distinct sense of gratitude, pride, and humility.

I am grateful for the men and women who have and are serving this country. Everything I enjoy on a daily basis has been purchased by their sacrifice. That selfless attitude I’ve seen expressed as mommas and daddies kissed their sons and daughters goodbye and watched as these brave soldiers go off to war elicits a deep sense of pride in the heritage of sacrifice woven into the very fabric of my country. And…I am humbled that any person would willingly put their life on the line so that I might enjoy the abundance and joy of freedom. On days like today, its staggering cost is a weighty reality. Freedom is never free, and its fee is eternal vigilance and the sacrifice of blood.

No feeble word of human tongue can lessen the grief or pain of this family. Only the Holy Spirit’s intimate ministry of healing comfort, the love and support of family, church, and friends, and the passing of time will bring solace to the pain they are experiencing. Though one thing is evident by what I witnessed today—this precious family will not suffer alone. This community has joined them with their prayers, love, and support.

I was struck by the sincere and simple ways the people of Brandon honored Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers along the road today. Those solemn resolute postures, the crisp salutes, the gentle waves, the fluttering flags, and the tear-filled faces all communicated the same message: “Thank you!” There are moments in life when the silence speaks far more than any words can ever say. Today its shout echoed its gratitude for a fallen son of Mississippi—a hero who has paid the ultimate price. Semper Fi!