DeWayne's World — From Afghanistan with love
As Ron Martz spoke his voice captured the attention of everyone in the sanctuary of the Eureka United Methodist Church.
Martz was a man on a mission.
People’s attention was captured not just because his voice had power. It was the emotion and conviction in his voice, as he spoke about sacrifice, that brought attention to bear on his words.
Sacrifice is a common topic for preachers, especially the sacrifice of Jesus two millennia ago. But, as Martz spoke, his words were not just those of a preacher. He also spoke as a parent — a father with a daughter in the Navy who has served in Afghanistan.
And, it was 9/11 as he delivered his message. There is little wonder there was emotion in his voice.
During his message Martz pulled out a box. It did not look remarkable in any way. But, what was inside, was. In that box was a reminder of the meaning of sacrifice.
Martz spoke about his daughter and the during the service, and after, at my request.
His daughter, Ashleigh, now 28, joined the Navy after she finished college. That was not her original plan in life. Ashleigh started out in college studying history with plans to become a teacher.
That all changed on Sept. 11, 2001. Ashleigh saw what happened on the East Coast that day and her life’s course changed just as quickly as the hijacked planes changed America’s course.
“She had a number of friends who were Marines. On 9/11/2001 she determined she wanted to serve her country,” her father said. “She called us. We had a brief conversation. For my wife it was difficult. You never know what that means ... But, we saw her determination.”
Ashleigh switched her major to criminal justice and set on a course to join the Navy upon graduation. She is now an intelligence specialist and has served in Afghanistan and on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. She is now headed to a new posting in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.
“She plans to make the military her career,” Martz said.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” it says in John 15:13.
Martz spoke of that passage on 9/11. He spoke of the fact that he heard a newscaster say that 9/11 is this generation’s Pearl Harbor. Martz does not argue that idea. World War II changed life in America, he said. Sept. 11 has done the same.
It has made that passage of scripture all the more meaningful for him.
“It does mean more to me, especially as we look back at 9/11 and up to the present. We have a voluntary military. They are giving their all. Many have given their all,” Martz said. “We’re all called to service, to sacrifice, to help as well.”
In his hands, Martz held that box.
He opened it slowly as he explained it was a gift his daughter brought home to he and her mother, Tracy.
In the box was an American flag.
Martz pulled it carefully from the box. It was folded in a triangle.
He explained his daughter gave it to him on a recent visit home. This was a very special flag he discovered when he finally opened it on Sept. 9 and looked at the paperwork that accompanied it. The flag had flown over the compound where his daughter served in Afghanistan.
“It is special, for one, because it represents all our men and women,” he said. “And, it is special because my daughter was over there.”
His daughter is not part of an elite team like Navy SEAL Team 6 — the servicemen that brought down the world’s most well-known terrorist Osama bin Laden — but she has made sacrifices to serve.
She does not receive the attention that Navy SEAL Team 6 receives. She serves outside the limelight.
But, she faces the same perils the SEALs faced just three months after their victory over bin Laden, when, on Aug. 6, they were victims of the most deadly incident for U.S. forces in the 10-year Afghanistan war against the Taliban.
The SEALs lost nearly two dozen members who were among 30 Americans who died when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan by insurgents.
The president spoke of sacrifice as he talked about them.
“Day after day, night after night, they carry out missions like this in the face of enemy fire and grave danger,” President Obama said on Aug. 8.
“But now is also a time to reflect on those we lost, and the sacrifices of all who serve, as well as their families. These men and women put their lives on the line for the values that bind us together as a nation. They come from different places, and their backgrounds and beliefs reflect the rich diversity of America.”
Martz, in his sermon, reflected on that same theme of sacrifice, and the sacrifices made by ordinary people — such as firefighters, police officers and medical personnel — every day. He wanted to make everyone within the sound of his voice reflect on sacrifice.
“I want people to think about how we all need to be willing to serve and sacrifice for the betterment of humanity,” he said.
He can mark that down as a mission accomplished.