Every now and then I come across a news story or photo that makes a sudden, emotional impact on me. A few weeks ago it was the story of the two couples murdered by Somali pirates. This past week, it was the story and photo of a young British solder, Liam Tasker and his bomb-sniffing dog Theo, who both died in Afghanistan. Liam was fatally shot by a Taliban sniper on March 1, and his beloved dog died several hours later of a seizure, attributed to the stress of losing his master.
This photo of Lance Cpl. Tasker and his dog, Theo,their apparent bond, and their story has incredibly moved me. From the words of his family, “there are three words that best describe Liam, larger than life. He lit up every room he walked into with his cheeky smile”, and his colleagues, he was “kind, with a good heart, he always put others before himself”, a young life with so much promise was cut short in a millisecond.
LCpl Liam Tasker is representative of so many of our men and women, ordinary people who are called upon to do extraordinary things, in service to their country. And when they fall, or are severely wounded, their families and friends’ lives are changed forever. Perhaps this is the reason why this story has so unnerved me. We all know our own version of Liam Tasker, the kid next door; many of us have our own Theos. But unlike our versions, where we’ll witness the next chapters in their lives, LCpl Tasker has already written his final chapter. We won’t know if he’d have become a general, a veterinarian, open his own car business. And that’s the tragedy.
We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for how long? Nine years? Ten years? Sadly, I don’t know. Like so many, I’ve become inured to news from that area of the world. But it’s stories like this one that make me stop, think and appreciate the thousands of our men and women, who’ve left family and friends, to go to a hostile environment, under incredibly dangerous and stressful conditions, to fight a war whose purpose is to ensure that I can sit here, in safety, to write these words, and you can read them.
This is not a post about whether we should be in Afghanistan or not. I can’t make that determination. I can’t say whether or not I’m safer today because of the sacrifices of our men and women. I can only hope and pray that our military and civilian leaders are charting the right course to achieve the right outcome. As Abraham Lincoln once spoke, “that these honored dead shall not have died in vain.”
Eternal rest grant unto him (and Theo) O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen