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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Jim Cook

Posted by admin in June 21st, 2010
Published in prayer, Uncategorized, War

I hate war. I know! I just did a blog on not saying hate, but I do HATE war. (See my post “The War Less Traveled” October 14 and 15, 2008). I mean who doesn’t? Right? Warmongers—I guess they don’t hate war.

Afghanistan. When I was there in 2003 I felt that the US had done the right thing to free the Afghan people from the Taliban. But it got weird. It got messy. There was hope in the hearts and minds of the Afghan people in 2003, but in 2006 not so much. The conditions had really deteriorated in three years and I knew then that the US hadn’t hit hard enough, fast enough and thoroughly enough. Conditions in 2006 were dangerous and most of the people I met didn’t hold out any hope at all— not for their personal futures, or for the future of their country. I love Afghanistan so this harsh reality hit hard.

On June 17th I flew from my comfy little home in Lenexa, Kansas, and headed to Lithuania. My layover was in Atlanta, Georgia. The good old Atlanta airport ain’t the worst place in the world to have a layover. It’s fairly clean as airports go and there’s a lot to do, see and there’s food. I was just there twice last month on layovers.

But on Thursday, June 17th, things were different. Everywhere I looked in every terminal I went to there were US soldiers in desert camouflage. Tall soldiers; short soldiers; medium sized soldiers. Young and not so young; male and female; black, white, Hispanic and Asian. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them. As I waited for my plane to board I sat in Terminal E and forced myself to look at each and every soldier’s face that passed me by. They were on phones, they were drinking coffee, some bought neck pillows at the airport travel store for their journey ahead. Still others were on pay phones against a far wall or listening to IPods resting in the uncomfortable airport chairs.

Most were in groups or clusters of three, but the older ones, officers I assume, were most often alone. All had backpacks and military boots and patches revealing some mysterious military code telling who they belonged to, what they did, symbols of their vocation.

One beautiful young man sat across from me in the waiting area at gate E16. He pulled out his cell phone for one last call, one last good-bye. I tried not to listen and I wanted to give him his privacy so I turned to the side and pretended to read.

“I’ll be home Thanksgiving honey. Don’t worry. Everything is gonna be fine. We’ll do something fun when I get back and this is my last tour so things will finally get back to normal.”

I wish you could’ve seen this guy. He was extremely handsome, so young, and bright and shiny. He had a very clear, or clean, look about him. He said his final goodbyes to his sweetheart and closed the phone.

He sat there for a moment rubbing his eyes. Quiet.

Finally I leaned forward and I asked, “Where are you heading?”

“Afghanistan,” he replied, “for the fourth time. This is my last tour.”

“What part of Afghanistan?” I asked.

“Kandahar,” he replied. And my heart sank. If Afghanistan was a hurricane, Kandahar would be the eye of the storm. “I was in Kabul last time, but this time they’re sending me to Kandahar.”

“I’ve been there,” I said.

“Really? To Afghanistan? Did you serve?”

“No. I was with a UNESCO project in 2003 and then again in 2006.”

“Me? 2003. 2004. 2006 and now this time. It’s gotten worse, didn’t you think so? In 2006?”

“Yes,” I said. “I do think it was worse.”

He told me how discouraged the troops are. He said they feel they are fighting a war that is not to be won. He told me how the Afghans are fearful and just looking for whoever will feed them. The government over there is corrupt. The folks back home have lost hope and now the public doesn’t support this nightmare of a war.

“We’re fighting a very unpopular war and dying for something no one really cares about anymore,” he said. “The Afghans hate us, the Taliban is out to destroy us, the Afghan government is looking for anyone that will give them a handout and we’re stuck in the middle risking our lives for a war that everyone knows we can’t win.” The words stung. The truth sometimes does that.

His eyes were filled with pain. He teared up. I teared up. We sat there for a moment and I just looked at him wishing I had the right thing to say. So I asked something no one should ever ask a soldier, “How do you feel about going back?”

“Not so good,” he said.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Jim. Jim Cook,” he said.

“Jim I want you to know how very proud I am of you and how grateful I am, we all are, for what you are doing. I know it’s tough. I’ve only seen a little, but it’s tough. Jim Cook I will pray for you every single day. I promise,” I choked hard on the lump in my throat.

“Thank you. I believe in prayer.” And he gathered up his gear. I stood in reverence for him and we shook hands. I held his hand in mine a little longer that what’s usually comfortable, but I wanted him to know I meant it and that I saw him. That I really saw him.

Later in the ladies’ room I was washing my hands next to a young, small, blond soldier who may have been 100 pounds with her gear on. “Where are you going?” I asked her.

“I’m going to Afghanistan,” she smiled. I laid my hand on her narrow shoulder and patted her. She couldn’t have been over 20 years old.

My heart breaks to see our boys and girls go off to fight a war that even they don’t believe is winnable. They leave behind moms and dads and sisters and brothers; spouses and children and friends—loved ones. They leave behind jobs and homes and cars and comforts. They sacrifice their lives and the ones that survive have seen things none of us can even imagine.

Know a soldier? Pray for him or her today. Pray mightily and earnestly for his or her safety and protection and pray in Jesus’ name that they might come home and that there will be an end to this war. Don’t know anyone personally who is serving? Help me pray for Jim Cook. My prayer is that this Thanksgiving will be the best in his life, for both him and his sweetheart. Peace.

5 users Responded In This Post

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415. margaret said,
June 22nd, 2010 at 8:22 am

I pray for our troops-thanks for sharing this story. As I wipe a tear away, I pray for the people of Afghanistan also. May LIGHT break through the darkness of hearts and minds. May the Prince of Peace come to that land!

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416. anna jane said,
June 22nd, 2010 at 8:56 am

Sis, I am actually responding from Anna’s computer since we are in Albuquerque. This month I have been in the ABQ, Dallas, OKC airports and have been deeply moved as I look at all of the soldiers roaming about. Some have been returning and greeting their families while others have been on their way to destinies unknown to me. Thank you so much for this reminder to pray for them. I haven’t been consistent in my praying for the soldiers and their families. Seeing these faces in the airports, somehow makes the wars we are involved in a little more personal – these are our people risking their lives for freedom and peace for us. While I spent a few moments with our dad in the VA Center and he spoke with great pride about the days he served in the Navy as a Frogman – I realized what sacrifices these human beings make for those of us to go on with our every day lives, careers, marriages, children, and we never have to leave home or country to enjoy the privileges afforded us by these very brave heroes!!!! I will pray continually for them and for Jim Cook and his family. The families and friends suffer in ways we will never know…They are heroes as well, aren’t they?

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417. Texas sister said,
June 23rd, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Thank You

Jim Cook & the little blonde soldier as well as all the others are heroes.

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420. NoWarNoPeace said,
June 27th, 2010 at 10:04 am

I grew up an evangelical conservative and supported the war in Afghanistan too. However, the more I read Scripture and the early Church fathers, the more I am convinced Christians are to never support war. If we believe God is as big as He is then He will deal with the enemies of Christ at the final judgment.

We must advance the Kingdom and never confuse any political party or any nation’s enemies as our own. The U.S. is not part of the Kingdom of God, it is just like any other nation and king who will one day be forced to bend the knee to the only King.

I hope the Church will become more vocal in supporting young men and women to become servants and not soldiers. Let us all work to save lives instead of taking them in the name of patriotism.

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421. admin said,
June 27th, 2010 at 10:30 am

NoWarNoPeace: Beautifully said. Thanks for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly!

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