I think, more than anything else, I am ready to go because of the love and support I have felt over these weeks. At our casing ceremony on Wednesday, many of my Texas Presbyterian family were present. I told my parents, much to their dismay, that they couldn't come out this week. It wasn't because I didn't want to have family here in the final days, but it was because I knew that these days would be important time to spend with soldiers and their families, helping in this transition and offering small assurances where possible. All I can say is that I am glad I am an extrovert. I have felt a little like a teacher at an open house, meeting parents and wives and babies in rapid succession. Even though I may never see some of these people again, for this time, as we look to our mission in Afghanistan with excitement, fear, curiosity, and determination, I will always have a picture of the people who stood there with us, sending us on our way. I also knew that I would not feel sad or alone because I have a family here, too. I marvel at how six months can facilitate deep, abiding friendship. And, yet, I have decided that it is not really time that paves a way for these kinds of relationships, but more it is a willingness to embrace a person if the opportunity arises. As the Presbyterians came out on Wednesday morning, I knew my family was with me. Not every family member can make every important event. We can be grateful though for the ones that are able to come, remembering that they are a piece of a greater, wider whole.
Over these weeks, around the world, I have felt the power of prayers and blessings. These benedictions, offered around a dinner table saying grace, standing in front of a church congregation being commissioned and sent, in the quiet space of a few friends offering prayers and thanksgivings, or through emails sent with love and care, have been the encouragement that I needed to arrive at this moment. Now I am ready to give them away. In my invocation wednesday morning, I prayed for God's protection and presence, especially for families who, from this time until the day we come home next year, live with a measure of uncertainty. I asked that we always remember that we work for justice and that we might become instruments of peace. Though it may be hard to imagine in this space and time, with God's help even this is possible. I acknowledged that our times are in God's hands, therefore we put our trust in God. Of course, this is not just for soldiers and families or for this next year, but it is for all of us, now until forever. I guess that deserves an "Amen."