Sean Clifton: Good Enough

Most of my readers will remember an article I wrote back in June about my cousin, Sean, getting shot in Afghanistan and his amazing recovery.  Shortly after the shooting, his wife received a call that noone but a military wife can begin to understand.  From there, phone calls were made to family, then emails, then forwarded emails, prayer chains, special prayers, strangers with a genuine and sincere interest in Sean’s fate.

I was raised in a religious family, but denounced religion as an adult…..up until I had a near-death experience of my own.  As I lay hovering between life and death, I became acutely aware of a presence that cannot be described with words.  There wasn’t a man with a beard in flowing white garments….no angels with wings and harps.  Just a presence.  My experience pales in comparison…..actually, it can’t even BE compared to what Sean endured for this country that we sit safely in today.  A country that most of us take for granted because we’ve never stepped foot in a third world, communist or terrorist-run country.

As I said back in June….it was surreal to have a family member become a near casualty of a war that had affected OTHER families…certainly not ours.  In my mind’s eye, Sean is still a little tow-head running around in brown corduroys and fuzzy socks.  In reality, Sean is a man with a tenacious and unyielding spirit.  A man who has triumphed over malignant hate with his pneuma intact.

Yesterday, Holly Zachariah wrote an article entitled, “Carver’s Gift”,  featured on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch, telling the story of Sean’s miraculous recovery and a woodcarver by the name of Jake Jacobsen.  Jake presented Sean with a beautifully crafted, hand-carved cane…Jake’s personal contribution to those men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It was about 3:30 p.m. on May 31 in Afghanistan when Sean led a line of soldiers through a village. They snaked their way to a house where a suspected terrorist was having dinner.

Sean tried to kick in the door. It didn’t open. He stepped back and kicked again.

The door gave way, and he hit a wall of gunfire.

“You know, it’s like, have you ever stood next to a big concert stereo speaker when it comes on full blast?” he said. “You can just feel this vibration, this energy pushing into you, moving you. That’s what it felt like to me. Blow after blow after blow.”

A 7.62-mm bullet from an AK-47 hit his chest — the body armor that stopped it still bears the mark — and another pinged off his helmet. A warm feeling oozing just under his waistband told him he’d been hit low, too.

“I wasn’t panicked. I thought I could make it out. I knew I could still back out, still live.”

Then, a round blew through his left wrist and forearm, the one that supported his M-4 rifle. The arm went limp; his weapon fell. And a soldier without a gun in a firefight is as good as dead.

“When I saw my arm drop, I thought of my boys. I’m going to leave them without a dad. And Sarah. My Sarah. How can I leave her?”

Then, his thoughts turned to himself: “What’s it going to be like to die? Was I good enough?”  ~ Holly Zachariah (Columbus Dispatch)

Yes, Sean….you’re “Good Enough”.  So good, in fact, that the Angels knew the world would be an emptier place without you and hand-carried you back home.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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