Two Tough Days

For twelve consecutive years now, the last day of September and the first day of October have created a strange tension for this father of five.  On the morning of 30 September 1974, in Rochester, Michigan, the second of my five children, and the first of three sons, was born.

However, on the morning of 01 October 2006, USMC Captain Justin Dale Peterson was killed while he and his team were returning from a mission in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  Twelve years after the phone call from my daughter-in-law Patty that radically impacted my life then still carries and indescribable impact.

This morning, 30 September 2018, as I spoke to a church audience, out of nowhere I was once again ambushed by my emotions.  In a manner of Nano-seconds, my mind raced through two phone calls of that Sunday twelve years ago.

The first was from my youngest son Joshua, also deployed with the USMC in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  In the SBC Association apartment where I was staying in Illinois, I  was almost dressed and ready to leave for my speaking engagements that day.  Joshua’s words are forever etched into my mind.

Don’t talk, dad—just listen—because I’m not supposed to be on the sat phone.   I need you to pray.  We’re going on our first mission today and we’ve already had a Marine fall somewhere in Anbar Province this morning.  I love you, dad!  Bye.

joshua 2006 iraq 1

The second call came while awaiting our late evening meal in a small restaurant in Sparta, Illinois.  Excusing myself from the table and making my way to the door, I answered the mobile phone to hear a barrage of soft-spoken questions from my daughter-in-law Patty.

Dad, where are you?  Are you driving?  Are you alone?

After replying that I was in Sparta, Illinois, with the pastor and his wife at dinner, and not driving, Patty continued:

Dad, Lt. Col. Hermann just left the house … 

Fast forward from that eternally long night in 2006 to today, Sunday, 30 September 2018, and tomorrow, 01 October 2018.  Life has continued for all concerned; however, adjustments have been required of every family member and friend of Justin—especially his wife and children.


(Patty and two of Justin’s three children—Jayden and Caitlin)

Let’s jump from “my story” to your story for a moment.  Is there someone in your life that you love but time, distance, or circumstances strain your relationship?  Take the necessary steps to rekindle that relationship while time permits.

Has death snatched someone from your life that you miss dearly?  Do you experience a heartache that almost consumes you?  Nothing in this life can bring them back.  However, that does not mean that you are without hope!

I’ve been reminded of (and even distracted by) this very concept by a new television show that has been playing in the background as I write.  It was about a young man who received a friend request from God.

Therein lies a hope on the horizon of your life that can supersede your greatest expectations.  Like the Old Testament writer penned, “Hope thou in God!”

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for my family and me?  These two days each year bring with them a measure of stress and grief.  Each of us tries to fix our focus on the pleasant memories (and there were many) and funny events (and, believe me, there were certainly many of those), but there remains a void in each of us.

We recognize that our voids and heartaches are temporary, that we will see Justin again one day.  However, we still experience a measure of sadness, though we do not sorrow like we have no hope.

While you’re praying, why not remember the countless thousands of families around you who must deal with the sadness that comes to everyone when a friend or family member slips past and into eternity ahead of us.


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