Quiet Fireworks: ‘Daddy is in God’s Army Now’
Sgt. Eric Houck was one of ten U.S. service members to make the ultimate sacrifice in June.
You rarely see their faces on the news. Their names don’t usually trend on Twitter. But without our nation’s valiant men and women in uniform, Americans would not be free to celebrate America’s 241st birthday with booming fireworks.
One of these protectors was U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Houck. Less than a month ago, Sgt. Houck, 25, made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province beside two brothers in arms, Sgt. William Bays, 29, and Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22.
Initial reports about the June 10 attack, which the military is investigating, indicated that an Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon on U.S. forces. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the cowardly assault, which left another American soldier wounded.
At Fort Campbell, the massive Army base on the Kentucky-Tennessee border where the fallen heroes were stationed, this year’s Fourth of July fireworks will be quiet for three grieving military families, including Samantha Houck, who is suddenly raising two young children without her beloved husband.
“It’s just a crazy world and I can’t expect people to understand where I’m coming from (because) they aren’t living this nightmare every day,” wrote Sgt. Houck’s wife in a public June 28 Facebook post. “They aren’t having to fight each day just to get out of bed, they aren’t having to explain to their children every night why Daddy is in God’s Army now or helping them calm down when they are crying out in desperate pain for their Daddy who will no longer be walking in the door, tucking them in the bed, or playing and loving on them.”
As we pray for Samantha, her children, and all three Gold Star families, we also remember the wounded soldier, as well as seven more Americans injured in a similar, separate insider attack. Our hearts also pour out to the loved ones of the seven U.S. Navy sailors killed in the tragic June 17 collision of the USS Fitzgerald and a Japanese cargo ship.
Where does our country find such selfless warriors? The answer is actually simple: in the very cities and towns we live in. Future Army hero Eric Houck grew up in Baltimore before volunteering to serve in a time of war.
“If he was nervous, he didn’t let on,” the soldier’s father, Mike, told The Baltimore Sun. “He took it bravely, as his responsibility as a soldier. He was unwavering in his dedication to that.”
“Unwavering” is the perfect word to describe the hundreds of service members, veterans, and military family members who I have been privileged to interview and work with in recent years. While these remarkable Americans carry a diverse set of backgrounds and beliefs, they will never shy away when it comes to standing up for freedom and our flag.
For our extraordinary military community, “bleeding red, white, and blue” is no cliché. In fact, their willingness to sacrifice everything for freedom is the precise reason why we celebrate the Fourth of July.
No amount of Independence Day festivities will erase the incomprehensible pain being felt by families like the Houcks, of course. At the same time, acts of kindness by friends, family, and even strangers can make a world of difference.
“I’m speechless because I never thought so many people would be so willing to help any way they can, when it comes to gift bags for the kids, dinners at night, notes, letters and little things to keep me sane, or offering an ear just to listen when I need to vent,” Samantha Houck wrote. “There aren’t enough words to thank them for all their loving actions! I know my husband is proud of each and every one of you!”
I hope Samantha knows that we are proud of her, too. Her courage embodies the towering legacies of Sgt. Eric Houck and his fellow soldiers. Like the heroes who fought for our independence, Samantha’s husband and his brothers in arms gave all to keep us free.
As Fourth of July fireworks explode into the quiet Tuesday night skies above Fort Campbell and across our great country, please join me in praying for our nation’s families of the fallen. Indeed, as Samantha Houck so eloquently wrote, their loved ones are part of “God’s Army” now.
Tom Sileo is co-author of 8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. Follow him on Twitter @TSileo.