There must be a reason
A true story of Providence
by Nikolas Sternhagen, LC | Source:
The desert sun beat fiercely down as the US Marine border-patrol wound its way through the rolling, arid hills of northeastern Afghanistan. From his seat on top of the leading HUM-V, the 20-year-old machine-gunner peered ahead, warily eyeing the city they were cautiously approaching. They were near the Pakistani border; anything could happen. This was only a patrol, but skirmishes with the Al-Qaida were all too common on such ventures.
He had been in the Marines for over a year and had been deployed to Afghanistan four months ago. As a Marine it was difficult to continue going to Mass and receiving the sacraments. It wasn’t always the easiest environment, as a lot of the guys didn’t understand. But he had kept it up. Whenever he could, he had helped the chaplain as an unofficial sacristan and serving Mass. In fact, his dream was to be a priest, a military chaplain, bringing God to all these men who every day looked death in the face.
But now all that seemed far away. His three buddies in the vehicle below depended on him to spot any signs of the enemy, and he took this job seriously, and continued his vigilance. He breathed a prayer, as he always did when he needed strength, and gripped the handles of his machine-gun even tighter.
Suddenly the air around him erupted with a deafening explosion, but almost as soon as he felt the rush of sickening pain, everything faded into swirling blackness.
He passed in and out of consciousness for days, not understanding where he was, or what had happened. He vaguely saw worried faces bending over his own, heard words here and there, like “land-mine,” “broken legs,” but never for more than a few seconds before all was enveloped again by the same swirling blackness.
When he finally came to, it was five days later. He was in a white hospital room, propped up in bed with pillows; then he became immediately aware that his legs hurt and that he couldn’t move much. But he saw familiar, loving faces in the room; familiar hands lovingly stroked his own. They were those of his mother. His father and little sister were there as well, in the background. He smiled, confused: “Mom… what happened? Where am I?”
His mother’s eyes were red with crying, but she smiled bravely:
“Luke, don’t worry; you’re in a hospital in Houston. You’re going to be all right.”
“But what happened? The border-patrol…”
“Your HUM-V hit a mine, son.” It was his father’s deep calm voice, but full of emotion. “You were thrown thirty feet; broke every bone in your legs. …fractured both hips…won the Purple Heart too.”
Luke thought for a second: “The Purple…! But what about the others? Are they... where are they?”
His father shook his head. “From your vehicle, you were the only one survivor.”
Luke’s mind filled with memories of the other guys, his companions, and he tried to fight back the tears as he lay back on his pillow.
“Just…just get some rest, dear,” his mother said. “We’re here.”
He closed his eyes, but everything was a blur. How was it possible? It had all happened so fast.
Why had he survived? Why hadn’t the others; Joe, Chad, and Craig made it? There must be a reason. Then he began to pray, as he did when he needed strength.
“Jesus,” he prayed, “Dear Jesus: Thanks for saving my life. Thank you for bringing me home. Help me to see. Why did I make it through, and they didn’t? There must be a reason… help me to see it, Lord! What do you want from me?”
He lay back and slowly drifted off to sleep again, but somehow he knew his prayer was already heard, and somehow he already knew the answer.