Patrick Ryan Adle's coffin rested in the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Bel Air, Md., in the same spot where the 21-year-old Marine lance corporal had stood before his first deployment to Iraq. On that earlier occasion, his pastor, Kenneth H. Homer, handed Adle a cloth cross, telling him that his job was to bring it back safely.
But the cross, which Adle had taped inside his helmet, didn't come home safely. He was killed June 29 when his Humvee, protecting an ambulance of wounded Marines being taken out of a battle area near Baghdad, hit a land mine.
On July 10, as 500 parishioners, family and friends gathered in the sanctuary, Homer, an Army reserve chaplain, handed Pamela Adle-Watts a second cross cut from another of Homer's own uniforms. Homer called the new cross a reminder she could "carry forward until the day when we are reunited with our children."
Homer was carrying on a tradition begun when a member gave him a "lucky penny" that he had carried through World War II. The member admonished Homer to bring it safely home again from his deployment to Bosnia.
Although many of the parishioners who gathered to say farewell to Adle come from military backgrounds, Homer calls Adle's death "a shocking demonstration of the war coming close to us."
Adle was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, having volunteered to replace a Marine who was married and had a child. Homer called him both "a practicing Lutheran Christian" and "the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, with a heart devoid of hatred for the adversary."
"I knew Patrick quite well," Homer said. "For me this wasn't the death of a Marine or the death of a member of the congregation but the death of a child."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers