Thursday, May 21, 2009

Five miles are logged in today for five heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.

Cpl Nicholas Dieruf, USMC, made the ultimate sacrifice on April 8, 2004 while serving in Iraq. He would have been 27 years old yesterday (May 20, 2009). I had the privilege of being invited by a friend to attend a memorial service for Nich yesterday. The service was held by a flagpole that has been erected in Nich’s honor. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to patriotic songs sung in Nich’s honor and prayed for the family members that must continue to go on without Nich. The sun was shining and Nich would have been proud to see his family standing strong as they honored him with yesterday’s service. Though Nich only lived 21 years, he touched many lives and made a huge difference in this world for each of us. Thank you for your service, Nich. This world is a better place because of your efforts.

LCPL Thomas P. Echols was serving with the 1st BN, 6th Marine Regiment when he was killed in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on December 4, 2006. Tom was 21, married and had a baby on the way. His sweet wife, Allyson was pregnant at the time of his death. I had the privilege of delivering a condolence book to Allyson. As a member of Marine Families Online, we create condolence books that include letters of appreciation written by people all over the country. The letters are displayed throughout the book and delivered to the family members of the fallen hero. My dear friend, Terri made the condolence book but she lived in Florida, so she asked me to deliver the book to Allyson. Because I had never met Allyson, I was very nervous as I drove to Shepherdsville, but she put me right at ease the minute she opened the door. It was wonderful to watch her look through the book and read the many letters written by people that knew Tom and the letters written by those of us that did not have the privilege of meeting him but appreciated his sacrifice. A few months after Tom was killed, Allyson gave birth to their baby girl. Tom would be proud of his beautiful daughter. I am sure that when she grows up she will know all about her daddy, the American hero.

LCPL Robert A. Lynch was assigned to the 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Mar Division, III MEF, Okinawa, Japan. He was deployed to Rishidiyah, Iraq when he was killed during combat operations. He was only 20 years old at the time of his death. LCPL Lynch was a graduate of Seneca High School in Louisville. He was a valued member of the school’s ROTC program. I attended the funeral and presented the Gold Star Banner to LCPL Lynch’s family. It was the first time I had ever presented the banner, and it was extremely difficult. I’ll never forget his mom’s tears and sobs as I presented the banner to her. Many people spoke about LCPL Lynch during the funeral. It was inspiring to hear about his life and his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. He touched many lives while he was living, and he continues to do so after making the ultimate sacrifice. I look forward to meeting LCPL Lynch when I get to heaven.

PFC Sammie Phillips was only 19 when he made the ultimate sacrifice. He was killed on September 10, 2007, while serving in Iraq with Battery B, 2nd BN, 138th Field Artillery, KY National Guard. His commander said that Sammie was an excellent soldier with unlimited potential. He was one of the best gunners in his unit and always ready to go. Capt. Mattingly also said that he never met a person that didn’t like Sammie Phillips. That was evident at his funeral. I attended the funeral and presented the Gold Star Banners to his wife and his parents. The church was filled with people that knew and loved Sammie. I was glad that I got a glimpse of this hero and what his life meant to so many others. He served his country well and I am grateful for his sacrifice.

Capt. Eric D. Terhune was a devoted Marine and a devoted Christian. He was killed on June 19, 2008, in Afghanistan’s Farah Province at the age of 34. Eric was born in the Quantico Naval Hospital in Virginia, while his father was stationed at the Marine base there. He was the son of a Marine and the grandson of a Marine. He was raised in Lexington, KY, and had a very interesting career in the USMC. I would suggest that you read some of the local articles written about him at the time of his death. This man really wanted to serve his country. I met Eric’s extended family at the visitation prior to his funeral. If you don’t have the assurance of knowing Christ, and you have never been to a funeral where everyone there has that assurance, you couldn’t begin to understand the peace that surrounded this family. Everyone was sad that Eric had made the ultimate sacrifice, but they all knew without any doubts that they WOULD see him again in heaven. There is true joy in having that assurance. Eric’s grandparents, in particular, made an impression on me that I will not forget. I wish I had known Eric. I know he was an amazing man.

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