Michelle Witmer, grief, and Iraq

This isn’t a post on a particular passage, which is my normal practice, but rather a post to remember Michelle Witmer, the first female National Guard soldier killed in combat in the National Guard’s 368-year history. Michelle’s dad, John Witmer, has a wonderful blog called John’s Journal in which he reflects on his own and his family’s loss of Michelle. I encourage you to read it as a way to bless John and as a way to help process any grief you might be experiencing in your own life: http://www.johnwjournal.blogspot.com.

Our family has been through significant grief over the last few years due to a very painful ministry situation four years ago and then the death of my father last year. At the same time, we see God continuing to turn our grief into joy and greater maturity, even as John describes in his journal.

In God’s providence, God has brought our two families together. Lori Witmer, Michelle’s Mom, is now my wife Heather’s personal trainer. Michelle’s brother, Mark Witmer, will be traveling with us back to Siberia this summer to help us continue our ministry there and nurture his own interest in Russian language and culture.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare, and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

A note on the Iraq war seems needed here, too. At the time the decision was being made to invade Iraq, I personally questioned whether establishing democracy in Iraq was a realistic goal. However, given the tremendous cost to our country, especially for families like the Witmers, what responsibility do we now have to them and to the people of Iraq and the entire Middle East? I believe we have a responsibility to persevere and to seek victory. We have a responsibility to listen to the families of our fallen and to listen to the soldiers on the ground as we continue to work this problem. We also have a responsibility to confront the fascism of militant Islam. May God grant our nation courage, wisdom, and self-respect.

Throwing money at the problem isn’t an answer. Pretending reality is better than it is isn’t an answer either. Abandoning Iraq is an answer, but a bad one. If Michelle were here, how would she counsel us?

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