As the phone rang mid-morning on January 18th, 2010, I was heading out the door with our two little ones in toe, and an unfamiliar phone number came up on the caller ID making me hesitant to pick up the phone. Luckily I answered, and it was my husband, John. He was calling from his assigned Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan as he was getting ready to be transported by helicopter to the next closest US military base. A mortar bomb had hit the tent he had been assigned to that morning and along with two other military medical personnel, he had been injured by the explosion.
John was the only assigned general surgeon and among one of the highest ranked officials on that FOB at that time. Ironically, the medical team that was there to provide care for others just became wounded themselves. As the medical team waited on US military helicopters from the other side of the mountain to come to their aid and rescue, John was tending to his own injuries.
Amongst the chaos of trying to understand what had just happened to him as well as a bad phone connection and the brief time we had to talk, John spoke clearly and calmly. With total assurance he just simply stated that he was going to be fine. He even took the time to prepare me for what would soon follow our conversation – to expect incoming phone calls from the military to report the incident and his whereabouts. John told me to sit tight, and wait; he would call again when he could. All I had was his voice and his words to go on, but that was all I needed. Even in the midst of fear and the unknown, I had an unfamiliar yet supernatural-like peace that he was going to be ok.
The military phone calls began shortly thereafter to report the incident. Sadly the information I was receiving was different from what John had told me, so it was unclear as to what had actually happened, what his real injuries were, and where his current or future location would be.
After calling our family to let them know what was going on, I called my beloved Bible study teacher. Her husband was retired from the military, and she had quickly become a wonderful resource for me since she could relate to what it was like living far away from family and raising young children while having a husband who serves our country. As reality had begun to sink in that there was nothing I could do to help John, I very humbly and honestly asked her the following questions: “Where do I go in the Bible? How do I pray? What can I possibly do from here to help my husband?”
She was so calm, gentle, and endearing. She just listened and let me nervously fumble through all that I had to say. Then she shared with me Psalms 91. As we got off the phone, I went immediately to my Bible to read the passage, and the words of scripture spoke directly to my heart. They were exactly what I needed in that very moment.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord; He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.“
Not only was I reminded of God’s faithfulness, but I was so encouraged to see that I could use God’s Word as a shield and a weapon to claim safety, covering, deliverance, and protection over my husband during this time. With a ten hour time difference between the US and Afghanistan, information about John would be coming in at all hours of the day and night. I found myself staying up most nights during this time to read my Bible clinging to it like it was my security blanket. In the midst of being up at night and tending to our children during the day, it didn’t take long for me to begin to tire out.
A few days later a wave of exhaustion came over me as I was driving home, and I said in total defeat, “Lord, I’ve got nothing left for today. I’m completely exhausted. I need you.” And as I started heading down the driveway to go into the house to begin our dinnertime and evening routine with the kids, I noticed there was a plain brown bag sitting at the side of our garage door. A dear friend had just delivered our evening dinner. It took my breath away because I thought, “Oh, God, You are not only in the big things, but You are in all the everyday small things!”
He knew exactly what we needed at exactly the right time, and I was so grateful.
After John spent a month at Landstul Army Hospital in Germany recovering from his wounds, he was sent back to the FOB where the explosion had happened to finish out his six-month tour. I continued to pray for the Lord’s protection and for his safe return home. I didn’t like that John was sent back to where he was injured. Everything continued to be out of my hands during the remainder of his deployment, and it truly kept me dependent on the Lord.
John’s homecoming on the Fourth of July took on a new meaning for our family. The realization that he could have been injured much worse or have not been coming home at all was clearly evident. We had so much to be thankful for, and it truly was a wake up call to our family as to what our priorities were to be.
Needless to say, every January 18th since then has become a date of remembrance for our family. Serendipitously, in the midst of New Year resolutions and fresh beginnings, I can’t help but look to the past to be reminded of God’s provision, protection, as well as His faithfulness through the works of human hands. Memories flood my mind as I think upon the numerous kindhearted friends and neighbors who were so supportive to our family during those tough times.
This year and every year, our country continues to have many Military men, women, and families who are in need. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of our injured veterans, I hope you will consider supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. Information about this organization and donations can be made online at http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
From my nest to yours,