On September 4, I had the honor of leading the 8th annual graveside memorial for SSgt TJ Lobraico. Some asked for a written copy of my comments, so here they are.
TJ Memorial 2021
Welcome, and thank You for being here.
We are here to mourn the loss, but even more to remember, honor, and celebrate the life, love, and legacy of Staff Sgt. Todd James “T.J.” Lobraico, 105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, Security Forces Squadron. His headstone indicates he was “killed in action,” but more accurately, he willingly sacrificed his live in an act of exceptional courage and uncommon valor on September 5, 2013, while serving his nation at the Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.
Memorial Reflections — “Nothing Wasted”
The events in Afghanistan over the last few weeks have left us confused, outraged, and horrified. While there are varying sentiments on the wisdom of withdrawing, there is little debate over the debacle that unfolded in Kabul in recent days. I’ve heard recently anguished expressions of “all of that sacrifice for what!?!?” “All of the lives loss, the time spent away from families, the financial costs … all a massive waste!!!”
We are used to measuring success and victory based on outcomes, as if achieving and maintaining objectives determines levels of victory; but I would suggest to you today that victory is measured by so much more.
Eight years ago, as the Air Force chaplains and I met with Todd and Dianne to plan the funeral, we discussed using the words of Jesus from John 15:13 when He declared “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” When I stood over TJ’s casket at the funeral, I referenced those words from Jesus and made the essential connection between His love and His sacrifice. Today I would like to stress that no sacrifice made out of love is ever wasted.
Please remember today that:
-Several men are alive today because of TJ’s sacrifice.
-For almost 20 years the world beheld tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of men and women who were willing to sacrifice everything because of their love for their families and nation…all of them volunteers.
-For almost 20 years, women in Afghanistan got a glimpse of what it was like to be treated as humans rather than dogs…to be able to learn and develop, to voice opinions, to be recognized as equals.
-For almost twenty years, children grew up seeing examples of courage, valor, and professionalism among our military personnel … people who would die to protect, to save women and children, contrasted with thugs and cowards who use their women and children as shields to protect themselves, or as weapons to accomplish their evil devices. And we do not know now how such memories in these children and women from the last twenty years will impact the future of Afghanistan.
-Also remember that it’s not just the accomplishing of objectives that determines victory, but inherent in every act of valor is a measure of victory.
We may not be in a position to see the long-term results from those loving sacrifices, but that does not mean those sacrifices were wasted. I love and follow the One Who has a perfect track record of working through loving sacrifice; since the beginning of time, He has been working in and through such acts in ways that may not be detectable to the human eye, but are real none the less …because no sacrifice made out of love is ever wasted.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus’ followers were decimated. They had invested everything for three years into their perception that this Man’s primary goal was to overthrow the Roman enemy. Yet the enemy captured and slaughtered Him. All was lost, everything wasted…or so they thought. They didn’t know He would rise again three days later and accomplish a victory on a much deeper level, one they could never imagine, a victory that reached far beyond human governments and armies and actually impacted all eternity … because no sacrifice made out of love is ever wasted.
Please understand, the story is not over. I’ve read the final chapter and the bad guys ultimately lose; all evil is punished and justice is finally served. So take heart.
Yes, things have not turned out as we would want; things could have/should have ended differently, but that does not mean it was a monumental waste…because no sacrifice made out of love is ever wasted.