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A Soldier in the Night

My son Dan approached me when he was 17 to enlist in the Army National Guard. "Please sign the papers Mom. I really want to do this." Thinking he was too young, I told him to wait until he was 18. It would give him another year to make sure that this was what he really wanted to do.

The next year came around, and Dan still wanted to enlist. He thought it would be a great way to earn college money and travel. There was just beginning to be rumblings of a possible conflict in Iraq, but it was only talk, so when my husband, Jeff, took Dan to the recruiters office, little did we dream what was ahead for all of us.

Dan spent the summer and fall going to weekend "drills." He seemed well suited for the discipline of military life and was looking forward to his turn to go through the experience of basic training. In January of 2003 Dan left for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was hard to watch him leave but I thought those six months would go by quickly and we would see him again soon.

I was nervous about a possible war in Iraq, so Dan and I talked about it just before he left. "Don't worry about it Mom. If that is what is supposed to happen in my life, then I am okay with it. I knew this could be a possibility when I signed up, and I am more than willing to do it to serve my country."

Dan's time in Missouri was a difficult and challenging time for him, as it is for any young man who has just entered the armed forces, but he was doing well with this experience in his life, so I relaxed and decided maybe this was a good thing for him after all.

I went to bed on an ordinary night, which was to prove to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Sometime during the night I had gotten up, which was nothing out of the ordinary and part of my usual habit. As I stepped my foot out of the bed, I could make out the form of a man standing peacefully at the foot of my bed. He was dressed in green army fatigues and just stood there not moving or saying anything. There was a sense of calmness and serenity about him, but I was startled to find a stranger standing in my room in the middle of the night. Thinking it might be a robber, I let out a piercing scream. The man instantly disappeared into nothingness.

My scream had not awakened my husband, and I let him sleep. But the next morning I told him what had happened. "Jeff, Dan is going to Iraq." I just had this inner knowing that I couldn't explain.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

"I saw his guardian angel last night. I knew it was Dan's because of the way he was dressed."

Dan completed basic training in June of 2003. That summer the war did indeed start, and my son and nearly all of his regiment were activated. In January 2004 they were sent to Iraq, just as I had known by the visit of the angelic soldier the year before.

Two weeks after Dan arrived in Iraq, he was out doing a routine maneuver—he was the gunner on a humvee, along with the driver and a passenger. They ran over a roadside bomb. The vehicle was blown up into the air and the others were killed, but Dan walked away with minor shrapnel wounds.

It was one of the hardest years of my life. But when fierce moments of doubt and worry came, as they do to all mothers of soldiers in a war zone, I held onto the angelic visit I had in the middle of the night. It would bring a sense of peace and calmness when nothing else could.

In February 2005, Dan returned home safely from his tour of duty in Iraq. He is newly married and in January 2006 he and his wife, Jenna, brought forth our first granddaughter, Savannah Marie.

Life is so very precious and treasured now. Dan and all of us truly grew through this experience. I learned when we least it expect them and when we need them the most, angelic messengers are sent to help guide, reassure, protect and encourage us.

Bonnie McPhail




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