A friend of mine was among the 22 Navy SEALs who perished when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan Aug. 6 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was the father of a 2-month-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. He was also a devout Christian who taught me much about being a man of purpose in the short time I knew him.

He is not the first warrior friend I have lost to war, but times like this always make me introspective of life's priorities. I know many of you reading this can relate as well. And so I am inspired to share with you some of my thoughts and opinions that were also shared by my SEAL friend regarding life, war, and spirituality in the hopes you find some comfort in them the next time, God forbid, you lose a friend in combat.

Loneliness and the uneasiness or psychological discomforts that come from not being able to predict the future are the appendages associated with war. Personally, I always made time for prayer, reflection and thought. My Navy SEAL friend believed it is necessary to take strength in realizing every experience is an opportunity for growth; these are rich and fertile fields of heightened awareness and they bring warriors closer to God and humble them in his sight.

My friend also believed there are no such things as chance, luck or coincidence because they denote a lack of faith in divine intervention. He believed one makes choices, but thereafter God prunes you according to your receptivity. Speaking of choices, it is my belief just as you would lift weights to build muscle, you must also exercise discernment in order to build your conscience. These are the very storms that temper men and make them receptive to life's teachings.

As warriors, we are constantly aware of our own mortality … the realization that life is fragile, death is a reality, and youth and time are precious and fleeting. These really are the "ultimate tools of temperance," as my SEAL buddy once asserted.

The current war on terror is a true match between good and evil and the inherent operations tempo of our fellow warriors has reached levels not seen prior to 9/11. And so the fact remains, more of our comrades will perish in the fight, and more of their families will suffer the pain and agony of losing a most cherished loved one to this righteous struggle for the preservation of liberty and justice for all mankind.

With my understanding of my dear friend's philosophy of life, I take comfort in realizing the human experience inherent to a warrior is one marked by contrast. In one breath we witness first-hand the comforts of peace and blessings of prosperity. In the next breath we witness in graphic detail the tragedy of war and wide spread poverty. This is what is known as the great dualism of life and circumstance. By the very nature of our inherent Army duties, we are, by the hands of our Creator, taught that life is both precious and painful. The joy we experience during the birth of a child contrasted against the pain associated with the loss of a loved one. It is profound and yet all so necessary. How would we recognize good if there was no evil? How would we come to appreciate light if there was no darkness? How would we appreciate life if there was no death? This is life…and my friend believed the purpose of life is to do good, to alleviate suffering, to share hope, to know the virtue of love and to seek truth. We will all be changed men and women every day if we choose to awaken each morning as God's students, realizing that life…is His classroom.

Rest in peace, Aaron C. Vaughn. Heaven is a little safer today.

Page last updated Wed November 9th, 2011 at 00:00