“I Am Grateful , Too”

And always be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15c NLT

Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.” –                            Herbert Hoover

Near Menlo, Iowa lies a large boulder with the following inscription on it:

“They lost legs & I walk.   They lost minds & I think.   Sometimes they lost their lives & I live.    I am grateful.”

      The boulder is called “Freedom Rock” and it is painted each year with patriotic themes by Ray “Bubba” Sorenson. This year, he was going to honor his uncle on one of the panels. But he painted a tribute to a young man named Taylor Morris instead.

      I read about this in the May 28, 2012 edition of the Des Moines Register. It was there, on the front page, where I met 23-year-old Taylor Morris.

      In a bomb blast in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Mr. Morris lost his right leg at the knee, his left leg at mid-thigh, his right arm at the wrist and his left arm at the elbow. How his major organs were spared is a miracle. But the article states that the young man is determined to move on with his life. He is still a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D. C.

      The article was accompanied by three photographs that brought me to tears and will haunt me for some time to come.

      There is a website established in his name (www.taylormorris.org) as well as one at Caring Bridge. I cannot visit them but perhaps some of you will stop in and offer words of thanks and encouragement to this young man who gave more than any country has a right to ask.

      His mother, Juli Morris, has kept an online journal for her son. Perhaps you can find her and offer her support and thanks.

      Two of the photographs show Taylor as he is today and they will take your heart and squeeze it as you see him working on sitting up with the assistance of a therapist in one and “holding” a water bottle and drinking from it as he lies in his hospital bed in the other.

      The third photograph shows a smiling Taylor shaking the hand of his proud father, Dan, on the day he graduated from Navy training to become an explosive ordinance disposal technician.

      As a father, I can feel Dan Morris’ pride as he smiles at his son and shakes his hand. Dan is wearing sunglasses in the photo. The dad in me thinks it is to cover his tears of pride.

      As a father, I can feel the pain he must now be experiencing for the sacrifice his son made for his country. There is probably anger, too, and, of course, the inevitable, “Why Taylor? Why my son?”

      As a citizen of the United States of America, I only hope that this country never forgets the sacrifice of this young man and all of the others who have died or left parts of their bodies or souls on battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq or anyone of the countless other places we have found it necessary to send our sons and daughters to settle the disputes of their fathers.

      Apart from the thousands who have made the ultimate sacrifice of life defending freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been over 1,400 individuals who have lost a limb. Over 400 of them have lost more than one. This is’ in addition to the many thousands more who have been “simply” wounded.

      As an inmate in federal prison, I hear many men grumble daily about their loss of freedom. Perhaps they would jump at the chance to trade places with Taylor Morris.

      I suspect not, however.

      As a human being, I thank God for men and women like Taylor Morris who keep me safe in my freedom, even though I chose to abuse it. I can only say, “Thank you and God bless you and watch over you, Taylor, and everyone else who has served and sacrificed for all of us . . . even those of us in prison.”

      Like “Bubba” Sorenson and millions of others, I am grateful too.