Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Weep For Tommy

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Thomas L. Latham, 23, of Delmar, Md., died March 11 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

So read the press release from the Pentagon today. Sgt. Latham was known to me as simply Tommy. I was his youth pastor until halfway through his junior year in high school when I moved out of youth ministry. As a pastor there are certain people that are a joy to be around and to work with. And I hope I'm not bursting any bubbles here but there are others that you ask God for more grace to deal with. Tommy was the former. I genuinely liked Tommy and enjoyed being around him. He was a kid that was lots of fun, had a great attitude and was incredibly easy going. He didn't just show up for the fun stuff. He was there for the service projects and missions trips too. Tommy was a great guy. While he was a good looking young man and always took care of himself, he didn't worry about being up to date with all the latest clothing fads. He wasn't afraid to work hard and liked to hunt with his Dad. Tommy was what you would call a "man's man."

My memories of Tommy are of him bringing a turkey call to youth group one night and freaking all of us out because we couldn't figure out where that sound was coming from. I remember long van rides with Tommy and other young men and women of our youth ministry. I remember his Mom saying to him, Let's go Tommy Lee. Only she would say it so fast that it would come out, "Let's go Tommalee." I remember a missions trip to Hepzibah Children's Home when he was so proud to do some masonry work because he was the son of a mason. I also remember that he was a good brother to his little sister.

My most important memory of Tommy was that he gave his heart to Christ. I'd be lying if I told you I remember the exact moment that he responded to Christ's call but I know that he did. Tommy lived the kind of life that bore witness to a life in Christ. I had been on enough long trips and spent enough time with Tommy that there was no doubt where his heart stood.

I titled this post, I Weep For Tommy, but that isn't really true. I weep for his young wife and two kids that are left behind. I weep for his little sister and parents that have lost their only son. I weep for his friends and love ones; we've lost this laid back, fun-loving, and big hearted young man. I guess I weep for us.

I don't understand this world sometimes. I don't understand why evil people live and good people like Tommy don't. I don't understand why some people that don't add a bit of goodness to the world die of old age and someone like Tommy that had so much to offer and was concerned with serving others dies young. It doesn't make sense but in the midst of the turmoil I have to trust that God understands. I have to trust that He knows the pain that those who have lost so much are going through. Most of all I trust that God has welcomed Tommy into His arms.

God, thanks for allowing me to know Tommy Latham and to have a small part to play in the man that he was. Please comfort his wife and two small children. Please take care of those little ones. Please comfort his family and loved ones. And God, I thank you that Tommy knew you. Thank you for allowing his faith to be made sight. Please remind those that are hurting that we can see Tommy again if we respond to you like he did. Thank you for his life, his example of service, and the impact that he had on all of us.


Larry said...

Hey Mark ... thanks for remembering this young man for us. I think it's been too easy for us to overlook the price that we're all paying for this war.

I'm feeling it a bit more these days, because Uriah has signed a contract with the Marine Corps. He'll head for basic in June.

Mark Schnell said...

Larry, it is pretty amazing how my views on this war and wars in general have changed over the last four years. Even before Tommy was killed I had decided I would never again toe the old evangelical, republican party line. Of course, I think that party line is quickly changing too. As much as I hate the loss of life on both sides I'm still conflicted on things like relieving suffering for those that don't have a voice, etc. These issues aren't easy to come to terms with. Anyone that thinks they are, no matter which side they come down on, are very naive.

We'll be praying for Uriah. Please keep us up to date on where he ends up.