We Were Stewards

"For I also am a steward. Did you not know?"

I’m so angry. I’m angry that thirteen Marines are never coming home to their families. I’m angry at the thought of the youngest of those men, exactly twenty years old. Younger than me. Too young to remember. But old enough to make war. Old enough to make love. Old enough to make a child who will never know him, now.

I’m angry that men like my good friend’s good friend, who gave a decade of his life to serve our country and his, were left behind to be butchered, their wives and daughters ravished. I’m angry that the Taliban knew exactly where to find him. I wonder how. I wonder if his name was on a list like this one.

I’m angry that Afghan Christians are forced to carry the flame of their faith in terrified solitude, because to risk community is to risk death.

I’m angry that this week’s awe-inspiring rescue of some 650 abandoned men, women and children fell to an unofficial scrap-iron special ops team, for whom seeking and saving the lost meant defying orders.

I’m angry that men like Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller know if they dare to raise their hands, if they dare to speak up and say anything, about any of this, they will turn their careers into so much dry kindling. As Scheller did anyway. Because it was right. Because the ones who mattered would understand.

I’m so angry. But I’m so proud.

I’m proud of Drew. That’s the name of the Marine in this photo, per a woman’s FaceBook comment. She grew up with his mother.

I’m proud of Matt, the Marine in this photo. Matt is doing okay, according to a friend who’s a nurse, with whom he checks in from time to time. At least he was okay as of two days ago.

I’m proud of this Marine, whose name I don’t know. Per another FaceBook comment, I do know he texted his best friend yesterday to say he was close to one of the bombings but is okay, for now.

I’m proud of this Marine, who was mistaken on socials for one of the thirteen, but has now been identified as Tristen Mathews of Graham, Texas, alive and well as of 0900 this morning.

People confused Tristen with Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, because Kareem was also seen bonding with a little girl, hours before his death. FOX showed a clip in this segment with his father. “Say hi to the camera!” Kareem tells the girl. “Say hi!” She grins and waves. “Hey, are we friends?” he asks, using sign language. “We friends?” She nods. “Yeah?” He shakes her hand. “Friends. Friends.”

I’m proud of this Marine, whose name I don’t know, but he appears to know how to handle a crying baby.

I’m proud of this Marine, who knows exactly how to hold a baby, how to support it, how to cradle its head.

I’m proud of this Marine, who judging by the little smile on his face has figured this is his lucky day.

I wonder if he’s a father. I wonder how many of them are fathers. I wonder how many of them would like to be fathers. I wonder how many of them never thought about whether they would like to be fathers, until now.

I read the news with a little child at my elbow yesterday. He was three. He was occupying himself with toys and crayons while his parents presented at our school staff meeting. His preferred method of occupation was taking each toy, each crayon, and pushing them one by one off the edge of the table. He looked at me and giggled each time he did this. He didn’t care that he was noisy. He didn’t care that something else was going on around him. He was just being three. He was just being. This is what little kids do. This is what they always do.

I wonder how much the children will remember. Surely some of the older little ones will. Surely Kareem’s friend will. Surely Tristen’s friend will. They’ll remember the fist bumps, the private jokes. The guiding hand on the shoulder. The last wave goodbye. They’ll remember the babies sleeping in arms, babies crying in arms, men juggling them and hushing them while doing fifty other things at once. Because this is what men do. This is what they always do.

Hey kiddo. Hey squirt. Hey dude. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.

“The rule of no realm is mine,” says Gandalf, “neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”