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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Lilly's story

You could see that knowing look going between the soldiers. … You could see the reality below the surface, though nobody wanted to name it,” said Linda Livingston, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, Marion, Iowa, after a send-off party for an Army Reserve unit.

That reality? “They could be seeing their family members for the last time,” she said.

For parishioner Trevor Ulferts, 31, this reality is especially heartbreaking. He had to sign papers giving legal guardianship of his 4-year-old daughter, Lilly, to her grandparents. His sister, Dawn Butler, said Ulferts had to make arrangements for Lilly before he could be accepted into the Reserves because he is considered a single parent. Ulferts has had primary custody of Lilly since his divorce. Her mom is on stand-by for active duty in the Air Force.

Ulferts’ deployment will probably last a year, Butler said, adding, “He was down because of the length of time he will be away from Lilly.”

Butler tells a story of Lilly and her grandparents going to pick up Ulferts’ truck at the armory after the battalion was deployed. “She didn’t understand how her dad would be able to get home if they took the truck away,” she said. Lilly cried when her grandparents explained that he would be gone for a while.

“I just hope and pray that everybody comes home,” said Butler, a career soldier with the Army National Guard. “But that’s your risk. We know the possibility behind the job when we take it.”


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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