“I have the peace of knowing God has a plan for me. If this is where he leads, he will protect me or bring me to his presence.”
I didn’t want to write about September 11 today. I’ve written about it before, and it’s always painful to remember. But this morning I found myself editing a story for the December/January issue of Mysterious Ways that gave me something to think about on the anniversary of that tragic day.
In the years following September 11, Gina Sclafani—a single mother living in New York—followed the news about our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but never particularly considered the soldiers fighting over there. The war on terror took a backseat to more present concerns: caring for her young daughter, meeting deadlines for work, the challenges of everyday life.
Then a chance encounter led her to the article "A Soldier's Plea," written by an Army medic, Sgt. James Martin, deployed to Iraq. Inspired by his words, Gina became dedicated to supporting our troops through letters, care packages, emails and more. You’ll have to wait to read her full story in our year-end issue. But I think James’s account is important to share today, when we recall the attack on our country.
“I did not want to put my life on hold and come to this Godforsaken desert, full of people who have been suppressed for thousands of years and, in my opinion, would never be able to run their own government,” James writes.
As sole custodian of his son, James had the option of refusing deployment. But he chose to go. “If I did not go and my replacement was killed, I would never be able to forgive myself. And I have the peace of knowing God has a plan for me. If this is where he leads, he will protect me or bring me to his presence.”
Faith brought James to the desert. There he found himself caring for injured American soldiers and, one day, two Iraqis—one a soldier, one a civilian—came rushing up to the infirmary.
“As the platoon sergeant, it is one of my jobs to explain to Iraqis that they cannot be seen in our clinic unless it is a matter of life, limb or eyesight,” James writes. “When I started toward the door to issue my explanation for about the fifth or sixth time this week, I noticed a small boy in tow. In the arms of the soldier was a crying baby wrapped in pieces of cloth. Neither man spoke English more than a few words: 'Baby no good. Please.'
I unwrapped the baby to expose a terribly distended belly, feet and legs that looked like filled water balloons ready to explode. His cry was pitiful. I told a medic to call for a physician and the surgical team. I escorted the two men and two children to our exam room. It was evident that there was a serious problem with this tiny baby... I saw a man begging us to save his baby. He frantically tried to soothe his cry, gently kissing his cheek. My heart went out to him.”
James and his fellow medics sprang into action. They quickly transferred the baby to a larger military hospital where he got the help he needed.
“My heart has softened for the Iraqi people, and my resolve to rid our world of bad guys has increased,” James writes. They were from a different religion, a different culture, but they were innocent victims all the same.
On this day, we remember those who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, on United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 93. But we should also remember all the victims of terror throughout the world, and those fighting to protect them. Ending this senseless violence is not solely an American cause, or a Christian one. We’re all in this together.
Gina found one small way to thank our troops for their service: with a Cup of Joe. For $2, you can send a cup of coffee to a soldier along with an encouraging message. A good way to remind our soldiers what they’re fighting for.