This was the sad day when a son of Whatcom County returned home to be buried: our first soldier killed in the war in Afghanistan, Spc. Aaron Aamot. I was unable to be among those to line the route his body was carried, with hundreds of others who wanted to honor his sacrifice. I went back to what I wrote on the day Jonathan Santos returned home, on an autumn day five years ago, our county’s first soldier killed in the war in Iraq in 2004.
October 27, 2004
Tonight the moon simply dropped from the heavens. Vanished from the firmament with a hollow hole left hanging in its place, slightly glowing but eerily empty and gaping. All else seemed completely usual and ordinary until we looked in the sky to find the familiar light missing, having been eaten up slowly over an hour’s time by encroaching blackness until it was swallowed whole. It shatters our senses and rattles our routine. It takes away our breath to lose such a part of our every day experience. And miraculously, expectantly, it returns, just as slowly, to bathe us in brightness, healing and sealing up the hole rent in the heavens.
Our town buried a soldier this week. A son, a brother, a friend–newly assigned to Iraq only a few short weeks ago, but returned home too soon, too young, and as #1096, too many. Ripped from this earth, leaving a gaping hole in his parents’ hearts, and empty hopes for his younger brothers. He arrived home on a blustery wet windy night, to streets lined with young and old who held candles and wept for this lost man whom most had never met, honoring his family’s sacrifice and grateful for his willingness to serve when the majority are not. Hundreds of people came to light his way home in the bleak darkness of a moonless stormy night, recognizing this young man’s commitment and dedication represents what is best about America. It is the rarity of his raw faith in our country that astonishes. In a letter received by his mother days following the notification of his death, he wrote: “We love our country and are willing to die for it. In the name of freedom we will fight any threat. We’re doing great things for God and country.” It takes my breath away to know what he was preparing himself, and his family for. It is breathtaking to witness such patriotism in one so young.
Any soldier’s death is one too many, any time, any where, now or 200 years ago. The blood soaked soil we tread with such casualness has been rendered sacred by each sacrifice, and we fail to remember, fail to acknowledge, fail to honor what it took to allow us that freedom to walk where we please, be who we please, say what we please. It takes the moon dropping from the sky to rattle us to awareness. The light has gone, the hole is gaping, the blackness bleak. But slowly, candle by candle, word by word, hug by hug, the glow of this young man’s life shines on, bathing us in the brightness of his faith and the awesomeness of his belief in freedom only coming at a price. Our country was born of this, and we have been there with other countries as they face this same sacred bloody struggle to freedom. Bless these soldiers and families who have made it possible. May the heavens heal them, may their light shine on forever, and may our God bathe them in righteousness so richly earned.