Eighteen months ago today my son Sergeant Eddie Jeffers went to be with Jesus when he gave up his spirit on an Iraqi desert floor. Eddie was only 23 ½ years old when he died, but he had lived the fullest life of most men I know. More importantly he had touched hundreds of thousands of lives across the world with his “rant” known to the world as “Hope Rides Alone.”
Eddie’s skill for writing came from his love of books…he loved words. I remember teaching him at an early age how to use a dictionary so he could look up the meaning of words for himself. Words mattered to Eddie and your word was all he needed from you because he put much stock in it. The only way to lose his trust was to not be good to your word. Most importantly, Eddie’s words when he wrote flowed from his heart; it was literally effortless. For a man who has spent the last twenty years of my life honing my writing skills, the one thing that bypassed me and went straight to my son was his effortless ability to share his heart and wisdom. It was his God-given talent:
“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook.” (Proverbs 18:4)
Eddie’s writing was so profound that many well-meaning readers wrote me to be sure that Eddie was real and that he had actually wrote Hope. Other hateful people wrote spewing vile comments about Eddie sure that he was a fake because no 23 year old Infantryman could write like that. In fact one blog site put together a dossier on me to try and prove that it was actually me who wrote it.
Why would some hate what Eddie wrote? Why would some not look inward as most did and search themselves to see if what Eddie wrote did not apply to them? I know it made me stop and think and I am his father! To hear such wise words for most is refreshing; many veterans of past wars, particularly Vietnam vets wrote Eddie and thanked him for speaking for all combat veterans. It was a way to shine the light on a dark period in our nation’s history. It renewed, restored, and reaffirmed their lives. It brought life.
On the other side of that coin is darkness and death and darkness hates the light:
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21)
Eddie believed that he had a strange relationship with God because of his vocation; how does a Christian man who loves Jesus reconcile the amount of people he had to kill? That always weighed heavy on his mind but he knew that removing evil was his calling. In a letter to me he wrote:
Sometimes I feel like God and I have more of an uneasy alliance than an actual relationship, because of the brutal aspects of my chosen profession. But that’s just a passing thought I’m sure Satan throws at me to distract me. This war goes deeper than Americans vs. Iraqis for me. I am fighting evil incarnate in the flesh on Earth. Evil that must not be allowed to exist. But in order to fight them I must make moral compromises; I must walk side by side with the demons I wage war with. But in the end I realize that our cause is just, and I take peace in that.
Eddie wrote “Hope Rides Alone” in the span of about 15 minutes. He emailed it to me and then left for a two week brutal battle clearing out the worst neighborhood in Ramadi. He did not read his email for two weeks. By time he got back to the camp, Frank Salvato had published Hope and we had already heard from over 700 people. All of those emails had been forwarded from me to him. Eddie called me before he opened any of them to make sure I had not sent him some sort of virus. I laughed and told him he needed to read as many as possible. He could not understand how his “rant” had affected so many people. I told him it was because he spoke from his heart as the Holy Spirit moved him:
“A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” (Proverbs 18:16)
I have heard from many people in the public eye; Mark Levin and I have become close friends through Eddie’s letter. Through Eddie’s life I was able to correspond with a lady named Ginni Thomas and much to my embarrassment did not realize I was corresponding with the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas until she sent me a personalized copy of his book. Ginni later set up a meeting for Karen and me to meet the Justice in his private chambers for two hours. I do not share this to name-drop; I am showing the truth of verse 16 even though it was Eddie’s father who has been brought before great men. Also my sister Mary received a note from President Bush personally signed by him and a presidential medallion.
Today is a good day for me; it is not one of nostalgia or grief. There will be plenty more days of grief; I have no control over them. When they come I grieve and rest in the knowledge that Eddie is with Jesus Christ because he accepted the Lord as his personal savior. No, today is a celebratory day; I am celebrating my son’s life. I am celebrating that our Lord saw fit to use a dorky kid from Daleville, Alabama to become a fierce warrior and an amazing writer. My dear friend Ken Walsh sometimes feels cheated because he knows Eddie had so many more powerful words to share with the world and those are now lost. I sympathize with that but ours is not to wonder why; we can enjoy the deep waters that Eddie left behind.
I’m sure Eddie will nudge me when I get to heaven for all the people I’ve met because of him, but I’ll nudge him back and say he beat me to Glory’s throne. Many days I long for that moment; I want to be with my Jesus, my son, my mother and father, my grandparents, my sister Kathy, but as long as I am on this earth in this earthen vessel I have a job to do:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)
Eddie’s life counted for something, not because of his words, and not because of his being a great warrior. Those are all true but they are the by-product of a life surrendered to Christ. Eddie would have been the first to tell you that he was not a good Christian, that he allowed too much sin and worldliness in his life, however he would also tell you that he loved Jesus and that Christ was his Lord.
He could say that because his life spoke for him.
Can we say the same?