But later, war became my reality. I served as a Marine in Iraq from 2007-2008 and in Afghanistan in 2009 as a field radio operator in 2nd Battalion 8th Marines, an infantry unit. I spent a lot of time training with men from around the nation. We were forged together in a deep bond of brotherhood and camaraderie. Most of us were young and thought we were invincible.
During combat, I saw young boys become men overnight. They became responsible to carry the burden of making life and death decisions. We banded together, becoming very close
Jared finds the name of fellow service member Javier O. Ortiz-Rivera. Jared co-wrote the book Veronica’s Hero with Javier’s wife, Veronica.
Almost daily we stood in formation for roll call. When our rank and name was called, we responded by saying, “Here,” or “Present.” When we lost someone we would conduct a ceremony called the “Final Roll Call” at their memorial service. Several names would be called out one at a time, usually the names of those who were closest to the fallen. Those friends would respond to the calling of their name. But when the name of the fallen service member was called out there would be only silence. The rank and name would be called out again, still with no response. Then on the third and final call of the fallen’s rank and full name, it would be called out loudly with a salute. Nearly every time we did this I would feel the Spirit of God surge through me with hallowed goosebumps as the names seemingly floated away into the air. I thought I would leave behind those names at the Final Roll Call.
I didn’t know how important it is to
Then my wife told me about the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Wall in Marseilles, Illinois, nestled alongside the Illinois River. Etched into its granite walls are the names of every U.S. service member who has died in the Middle Eastern conflicts since 1979. It is the first war memorial that gives
My wife planned for our family to stop at Marseilles this summer on a trip to Iowa. She knew I had carried burdens with me since my time in
Once on the grounds of the Memorial Wall, you can enter a fallen hero’s name into a computer log and record your visit to them. The log directs you to the wall panel where their name is carved. My wife and kids went on a walk to give me some time to process – or perhaps it was to heal. I looked up some of the names from my unit, some I knew personally and others that I didn’t: Hall, Chrobot, Lasher, Xiarhos, Christensen, and Sharp, among others.
I was prayerful and mindful the whole time, thinking how peaceful the location was. Although a Midwest storm was beginning to brew and light rain fell in the distance, the river remained calm. I searched the panels looking for my brothers’ names while
Standing alongside the wall, I sensed that I was on a brief pilgrimage. I touched the names, quietly praying to God. Latent emotion rose within me – the pain, the anger, the frustration, the struggles, and the darkness I had been wrestling with from my time in Afghanistan. I thought about the families who no longer had a mom or dad or brother or sister. I thought about the young men I served with who didn’t return home to a
I told God that I wanted the burdens I had been carrying from war to be left
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Check out Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial for more information.
This article was first published by Message of the Open Bible Magazine.
Jared Laskey is