On Friday afternoon, July 16, we stood at the corner of Goliad and Washington in Rockwall and held our flags to honor the funeral procession for Spc. Jerod Osborne, a 2008 graduate of Rockwall Heath High School. He was serving as a combat medic when a roadside bomb claimed his life in Yakuta, Afghanistan. In May of this year he received a bronze star for single handedly saving the lives of civilians at the site of another roadside bomb. He was killed July 5 when his body shielded a lieutenant riding in the front of the vehicle.
Some saluted. Others held their flags high. We all stood silent and still: young men with spiked hair, older men grown gray, little girls, the hot wind whipping their dresses as they shaded their eyes and squinted into the sun. We watched the long motorcade descend the distant hill and slowly climb to the city square led by police cars and motorcycles with blue and red flashing lights and a long double line of Patriot Guard Riders mounted on their bikes. As I held my flag above my head I felt the wind tugging at the folds like the emotions that tugged at our hearts. As I watched the faceless line of cars carrying the family and friends who feel Jerod’s loss the greatest, I was reminded of scenes long ago when I stood before the flag draped coffins of friends brought home from Vietnam, or assembled with others at the National Cemetery to pay respects to a Marine veteran of Okinawa.
Sometimes the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem far removed. Sometimes we feel unsure about why we are fighting there and what we hope to accomplish. The war on terrorism is much more complicated than the wars of the past. At our best, we always hope that the sacrifices made by our men and women will result in a better world, not only for us, but for those who live in the distant places where they lay down their lives.
Wars, it seems, are incessant. Jesus said it would be so. The struggle for justice and freedom never ends. The issues that create wars and call young men into combat may be debated, but the courage and sacrifice of young men like Jerod Osborne, who give themselves to save lives, both military and civilian, is without debate.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”