Saturday, April 23, 2011


The journal you are about to read is part of an ongoing dialogue.  The words are a conversation between "the family" of the soldier experience.  It's Dads, Moms, Sons,  Daughters,  Relatives and Friends sharing their thoughts of a particular day and/or it could be the soldiers journal entry detailing his or hers.  I believe there are many, many people keeping a journal through the Afghan War.  If you want to share an entry of yours email it to  Your post will be strictly confidential,  no names will be used.  In addition, locations overseas will not be mentioned for security purposes except the country of origin.  Some editing may be done to further protect the journal participant.

Dear Sonpo:

Right away, I want to make sure to wish you Happy Easter!  I pray you and your fellow soldiers have some time to reflect on the true meaning of Easter...the fact that Jesus died for our sins so that we may have eternal life.  How fitting that is today.

We've all had a tough couple of weeks.  First, Spc. Brent Maher, of Honey Creek, Iowa, was killed by an IED explosion as he sat in the gun turret of his vehicle.  Then, days later Spc. Don Nichols, of Shell Rock, was killed when his vehicle hit an IED.  I know Spc. Nichols passing had to hit real close to home with you.  As members of the 133rd,  you had some contact with each other.  Probably knew each other facially but not much more than that.  Still, he was a soldier "buddy" of yours at Mehtar Lam.  As a father, I am struggling with hopes of your safe return and those of the thousands of other Iowa National Guardsmen that deployed in October of 2010.   Until that day comes, we will remember Spc. Maher and Nichols...and hopefully no more.

Funeral services for Spc.Maher were held Friday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There have been varying reports, but most put the crowd size near 1,000.  That had to have been some comfort for his family and friends.  Some. 

Spc. Maher's hearse passes under a huge American flag
What had to have been disturbing  for those same family members and friends was the appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church "team" protesting military funerals.  The WBC is an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag.  The church is widely known as a hate group and is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family;  in 2007, it had 71 members. The church is headquartered in Topeka, Kansas.  Thanks in part to the Patriot Guard, these extremists were kept at a distance.

That was pretty much the case today (Saturday) in Waverly, Iowa where Spc. Nichols was eulogized.  I found this disturbing piece concerning their intentions of picketing Spc. Nichols funeral.

Waverly-Shell Rock High School Gymnasium in Waverly, IA   April 23, 2011  9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
WBC will picket a respectful distance from the funeral of Army Spc. Donald L. Nichols, who was blown to hell by an IED prepared by God Almighty from eternity past.  His parents, teachers and preachers taught him God is a liar - that he can live his life in rebellion and sin without consequence.  He knows better now.

Hundreds lined the funeral procession route for Spc. Don Nichols

I have NO words to say in response to the WBC statement.  That's how much it disgusts me.  Son, all I can say is, hang on to the truth.  You, and Spc. Maher and Nichols know your purpose.  You can rest in that.  Nothing anyone can say or do.....even some picketers that are "aimlessly" wrong can deter you.  (Update: apparently the WBC picketers were "encouraged" to leave the Waverly area on Saturday morning, which they did.  Thank you Lord.)  

I will say, I had the opportunity to attend Spc. Nichols funeral.  Over 800 people attended  the service which was a true testament to his commitment and service to country.  A good friend of Nichols, Spc. Aaron McNew of Gladbrook-Reibeck summed up so much of the soldier mindset.  "When a soldier dies in the field, we don't stop to mourn his death, we go on and live his life", said McNew.  Amen to that. 

After the ceremony, some 500 Patriot Guard motorcycles led the funeral procession from Waverly-Shell Rock High School to Spc. Nichols final resting place in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, Iowa.   The procession route was lined with families, Cub and Boy Scouts troops....young and old, white, black and hispanic waving American flags of all sizes.  It was an awesome sight!! 

This Easter, I leave you and all of your fellow soldiers with a verse of hope and reassurance: 
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am --John 14 1-3

52  Days or 8 weeks to go......Praying for your Safety Son.  Praying for you Daily.




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