Last week I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I heard a news report of a memorial service in Missouri for a National Guard soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. He was 47 years old, just two years younger than me. He left behind a wife and three children, just like my family. He was assigned duty with an Afghan Army battalion, and he was training them, just like I am going to be doing.
He was killed in a firefight - a small arms battle. The Afghan Army unit he was with came under attack, and he became one of the casualties.
The NPR report talked about the memorial at his home town. It made me shudder. I, too, could come home in a flag-draped box.
The statistics favor my coming home safely. Fortunately, most American soldiers return home more or less in the same physical condition as when they left. Some do not - they return missing limbs, or with less functionality. Some come home under the flag.
The flag of the United States once used to be used only for those killed in the service of our country. It represented that the soldier in the casket had given his or her life, and the nation showed its respect in return by covering his or her remains.
A little while ago, a 52-year-old woman was killed in Iraq. She became the oldest female soldier to die from hostile action.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.