I don't think a day goes by that we don't see headlines or news alerts like the one shown above ... on tv, or on our computers, or in our newspapers.
Some of us may take a moment to say a prayer for the families of those who lost their lives in the line of duty while serving their country ... but I wonder how often we take time out from focusing on what's happening in our own little worlds and really "connect" the headlines with the fallen heroes and their families who are devastated by the loss of their son ... daughter ... husband ... wife ... father ... or mother.
In honor of and in tribute to all these men and women whose ultimate sacrifice is the subject of so many headlines from around the world, I would like to feature the stories behind these three soldiers from North Carolina [shown above], who lost their lives this week in Afghanistan.
Their names were Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison, of Maysville, NC, Sgt. Donna R. Johnson of Raeford, and Sgt. Thomas J. Butler, IV, of Wilmington, and they were with the National Guard’s 514th Military Police Company.
The following is from an AP story published October 1st, with the headline reading: "Three Americans killed in Afghanistan" ...
I'd like to go beyond the headlines, and tell you a little about these young soldiers from North Carolina, who were killed. I'll begin with SGT. THOMAS J. BUTLER, IV, 25, of Wilmington, NC.
Butler began his military service in June 2007. The deployment to Afghanistan was his first, and his awards and decorations included the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
Sgt. Butler with his wife Holly and 6-month-old son, also named Thomas ...
According to articles I read online, family members said that Butler, known to many as TJ, "wanted to be a police officer since he was a little kid, and was dedicated to his school work and played almost every sport while in school." He had been serving his country for about four years, and had only been in Afghanistan for a little more than two weeks when he was killed. He was remembered by his high school coach as a "stand-out person," and his coach said he has "fond memories of TJ, just sunshine everyday."
Family members said he and his wife Holly would have celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary next month.
In an interview with a reporter from WTVD-TV of Raleigh, Sgt. Johnson's sister proudly shared that her sister had signed up for duty after 9/11, and wanted to serve her country.
Johnson joined the NC National Guard in August 2006, and was deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. Her awards and decorations included the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
SGT. JEREMY HARDISON, 23, originally from Maysville, NC, entered the military in May 2006. A veteran of service in Iraq, his awards and decorations included the Combat Action Badge, Iraq Campaign Medal with a campaign star, and the Army Commendation Medal.
Sgt. Hardison was living in Browns Summit, NC, with his wife Brittni and stepdaughter Alyssa before being deployed to Afghanistan.
In an interview with a local TV news team, family members called Jeremy, "a good man ... who loved his country and his family." He was expected to be overseas for nine months and the family's only connection was through Facebook, Skype, and phone calls.
His wife Brittni and her father traveled to Dover, DE to receive her husband's body Tuesday morning. Brittni's family was back in North Carolina, coping with the fact that their soldier is never coming home, turning to Brittni as their source of strength.
“We are .... grieving for these Soldiers, their families, and their unit members still carrying on with their mission,” Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, adjutant general of North Carolina and commander of the nearly 12,000 men and women of the North Carolina National Guard, said in a news release.
“They were the embodiment of citizen soldiers who put everything on hold to go in harm’s way for all of us. They will be remembered and sorely missed.”
I, too, would like to send my sincerest sympathy to the families of these three soldiers, as well as the families of thousands of others whose stories became "lost in the headlines." I wish I could personally thank each and every one of them.
I pray that they will feel God's presence and comfort surrounding them through the coming days, and I hope they know that there are millions of Americans who will be forever grateful for the courage, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice of their fallen heroes.