*Closer than a Brother*
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Greetings HeartTouchers readers!
It is with the utmost pleasure that I get to share another new writer to HeartTouchers with all of you! As we honor our nation's Veterans today I thought Chuck Holton's wonderful story would be more than appropriate. Be sure to write to him and not only give him a warm welcome, but take the time to thank him for the time he has served our country as an Army Ranger.
From my family to yours,
Closer Than A Bother
by Chuck Holton (Former Army Ranger)
Nick was used to being ridiculed for his faith.
After three years in the Marine Corps, it wasn't the first time his principles had gotten in the way of his popularity with the men of the unit. It would have been easy for him to join them on a night of drunken bar-hopping, to just allow himself to be "one of the guys." Nick wanted to be liked as much as the next man, but his Marine Corps training had echoed what the Bible had taught him -- that a man's integrity is his most valuable possession.
This trip to the Middle East promised to be tedious. Normally, the sailors enjoyed the ability to e-mail messages from the ship to loved ones back home. On this outing, however, e-mail privileges had been suspended so the troop ship's movements wouldn't become known to the world at large.
One day, however, the burden of loneliness lay especially heavy on Nick's mind and heart, so he went below decks to a quiet place where he liked to pray. "Father, he began, "I feel like I'm fighting the battle alone. It sure would be easier to stay faithful if I had someone to talk to, a friend who could keep me accountable. I don't feel like there's anyone on this boat who believes in You like I do." He went on to ask God to send him someone who could keep his faith sharp.
Back in his platoon's berth, not five minutes later, he ran into Sam.
Sam Valasquez had been in the platoon for over a year, but Nick still didn't know much about him. "So why do they call you preacher man," asked Sam
Taken somewhat off guard, Nick haltingly told Sam about his faith and watched as an astonished look crossed the younger man's face.
"That's amazing" Sam said. "I've been looking for another Christian to study the Bible with."
Nick was so shocked that he almost forgot to offer a prayer of thanks.
Their unit arrived in Kuwait, and Nick and Sam became fast friends as the weeks of waiting wore on. They started studying the Bible together and enjoyed discussing their faith whenever possible eventually other marines joined their group, turning more easily toward spiritual things as the war with Iraq loomed closer.
When the fighting finally started, it was almost a blessing. The marines in Nick's unit knew that their only ticket home lay ahead in the city of Baghdad.
Toward the end of March, the unit was given a mission near the town of Nasiriya. They encountered no resistance at first, but after crossing a bridge, the Marine column suddenly came under sniper attack. When Nick stuck his head out of the top of his armored carrier to check on the troops outside, a mortar round hit near him, and a large piece of shrapnel dug into his neck. He sat down heavily inside the transport, stunned. "Lord please give me the faith to make it through this."
After a few minutes, Nick was able to remove the shard and stop the bleeding with a compress, not realizing then how close the fragment had come to his carotid artery. A lieutenant stumbled over to Nick's vehicle, bleeding profusely from multiple wounds. Nick turned his attention back to the men outside his vehicle, who were now bearing the brunt of the heavy mortar attack. Forgetting his own injuries, Nick began providing cover fire as the driver started hauling their wounded comrades into the vehicle.
Then Nick noticed other vehicles pulling back. "We've got to get out of here!" he yelled, suddenly realizing that their communications must be down.
The enemy fire intensified as they made their way back across the bridge, but then Nick's vehicle was hit again. This time it felt like a mortar round had exploded in his lap.
Everything turned white for Nick. "This is it, I'm not going to make it," he thought.
Somehow, he managed to slide down the side of the now-burning vehicle and run for the safety of a house by the side of the road. Part of him knew that the others in the vehicle hadn't gotten out.
Did Sam make it? Nick fell, and only then did he become aware of the severity of his wounds. He looked down and saw that one of his heels was gone. The bullets started kicking up sand all around him. Adrenaline made him forget his injuries and somehow he got up and ran to cover.
Some buddies patched him up as best they could, and when reinforcements arrived, Nick was ferried on the back of a tank to the casualty collection point. Corpsmen continued to work over him when his gunny sergeant came by, also injured. He looked at Nick lying on the stretcher and said, "You okay, Elliot?"
"I'm alive," he answered weakly.
"Velasquez got hit too, but he's going to be all right."
An unexpected wave of emotion swept over Nick at the news that his fiend was alive. Thank You God! He broke down and started sobbing.
A week and several surgeries later, Nick was recovering in the ICU of a military hospital in Germany. Depression started to creep in, and he began to wish that he was back on the lines with his unit. The medical team had been able to repair the Achilles tendon that had been blown off, but they had to take some skin from his back to close the wound. The doctors told him that he couldn't possibly have run without his Achilles tendon.
But the doctors had never been shot at.
He actually felt a bit guilty for having been injured. He wanted to be there for his men. He was wrestling with those feelings when the physical therapist walked in.
"Someone wants to see you," she said. "Do you feel up to having a visitor?"
Nick wondered who it could be. "Sure."
A few moments later, Valesquez limped into the room, lighting up the room with his smile.
"Hey there Corporal. You ready to get back to work yet?"
The nurse says that in a couple of days you'll be able to move downstairs with the rest of us, unless you'd rather stay here by yourself."
Nick laughed. "I can't wait!"
The two friends were reunited shortly thereafter and stayed together on their return to the States and during their recover in Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C.
The scars they bear will remind everyone they meet of the price of freedom. Nick and Sam, however, see those scars and remember something else. A bond forged by shared wounds and a shared faith -- brothers not only in the Marine Corps -- but also in God's service.
Even after Sam was discharged, he stayed with Nick's parents to that he could be close enough to visit him until he was also cleared to go home. Both men are expected to recover fully.
soldier @ mission4me.com
Write Chuck and let him know your thoughts on his story!
(Just remember to remove the spaces before and after the @ symbol!)
Chuck grew up in a Christian home and gave his life to the Lord when he was 4. His grandfather and father were both Baptist ministers. Ever since the 6th grade, Chuck wanted to be in the military. When he was in 10th grade, an Army Ranger taught his Sunday school class. "He exuded a quiet confidence," says Chuck. "I wanted what he had. Nothing short of the Ranger beret would do."
In 1987, after high school, Chuck joined the Army and later joined 150 other men in the Ranger Indoctrination Program (also known as RIP). The sole purpose of this three-week course was to weed out those who wouldn?t be able to handle the rigorous demands of life in a special operations unit. Three days before graduation, Chuck was late for a formation, and his sergeant told him to pack his things. Chuck prayed that night that God would intervene. The next morning, Chuck knocked on the sergeant?s door. He asked them not to "recycle" him and told his superior that God didn?t put him there to fail. Against all odds, the sergeant decided that he could graduate.
After completing his tour of duty, Chuck met and married his wife, Connie. Today they have five children.
Chuck is writing a series of articles on positive male role models, stories of men who have exciting careers and carry their faith to work with them. "Unfortunately, most teen guys get nothing but negative male role models, in the men that they are shown in the Media. There are lots of positive male role models out there, they just don't get any press. I aim to change that."
Chuck is also working on his next book, a non-fiction project that takes a look at the Christian response to risk and fear. "The whole concept of what's risky should be different for a Christian," he says. "It should have more to do with one's standing before God than with one's exterior circumstances. This is a perfect time for Christians to model the peace that comes with knowing everything works together for Good."
Chuck speaks to churches and youth groups across the country, and is available for speaking engagements. To schedule one, please contact Chuck by visiting: http://www.mission4me.com/blog/contact/index.php
Visit his website at http://www.Mission4Me.com
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Thought For The Day:
"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." --Mark Twain
Verse for the Day:
"For His merciful kindness is great towards us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord."--Psalm 117:2
Kid's Thought For The Day:
"Be afraid of a kid who is never afraid."
Parent's Thought For The Day:
There are three stages of a man's life: 1. He believes in Santa Claus. 2. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus. 3. He is Santa Claus.
Coach's Thought For The Day
"By itself, practice does not make perfect. Anyone with a ten year old son practicing the trumpet may understand that."--Dr. Daniel Hanley
Writer's Thought For The Day:
"Of the writers I know who own mansions, all of them could paper the outside of their house with rejection notices." --John Long
Deep Thought For The Day:
Accept what you cannot change, especially if it's in large denominations.
MICHAEL T. POWERS
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20
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I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the beautiful video you made for me! It was so special to see both of my parents in tears as they watched their children grow up in pictures before their eyes! I loved the way you made Estania's part set aside from the rest--that was the part that really got them! The music was beautiful. My mom kept blubbering, "What song is that?" I don't know how you did such a beautiful job with the video in such a short time. I really appreciate your doing it so quickly. You have a wonderful gift, and I thank God that you are using it to create such sentimental memories. I hope that I can find my niche like that in an area that I love. Your video gave us one of our most lasting Christmas memories! I hope yours was filled with moments to be treasured forever! Love, Trisha Silverhill, AL
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