It had been a week now and Daniel didn’t feel like he had any better answers. Rather, he didn’t feel like he had any answers at all. Moreover, even though he would see Russell at his house, he hadn’t been back at school since they had gotten the news about his brother.
While it was uncomfortable it still seemed removed from his home life. Then one day it seemed everything else seemed to crumble.
Daniel and his family lived in a small town called Harmony Valley, but today was anything but harmonious. He had come home from school and mom was sitting in the living room with Dad – she was crying and Daniel had never seen Dad look so upset. He stood there in the doorway for a few minutes waiting. Both mom and dad stared at him, in part as if they were looking through him and at the same time as if they were terrified to speak.
“What? What is going on?” Daniel finally asked.
Mom looked at dad and nodded. Finally, dad said, “we received a letter today and Sanford is missing in action.”
Daniel was confused. Missing? How could someone simply go missing? “What do you mean?” he asked, “They can’t find him?” Dad answered, “Exactly. It seems he went out on a mission and didn’t return. They went looking for him… that was a week ago and they still don’t know where he is.”
Daniel stood there for a minute or two and then turned around and went back to his room. Taking out his school books he began working on his math. After about 30 minutes he finally let the words his father had said come to the surface — with each question that surfaced in his mind he would tell himself, ‘that’s impossible’. Is he dead? Did he get captured? Is he lost forever?
He told himself that just because Sanford was missing didn’t mean anything was wrong with him. Daniel had watched plenty of shows where someone had gone MIA only to find they are on some island somewhere. He assured himself with those thoughts and continue to do his homework. But, there was this niggle of doubt. What if – no – he wasn’t going to spend time on that one.
It was about 15 minutes later when Dad came to the door. Peering inside he had asked if Daniel was OK and if he wanted to talk. Staring back Daniel simply shook his head no and continued on with his homework.
The first week after they received the news everything seemed to go on as usual but then his friends started asking questions. Every day one of the guys would ask what happened or if he’d heard anymore. The girls would ask if he was okay. He felt better when they didn’t ask anything. When no one asked, he didn’t have to think about the possibilities. He didn’t have thoughts that it might be his fault. He didn’t have to think that God was punishing him for not praying anymore. He didn’t have to feel like his insides were all being chewed up.
It was his fault.
Somehow, he knew it must be, but he could not talk about it to anyone. As a result, he would put those thoughts aside and go on with his day. Each time anyone would ask, he would say was fine and that he was sure Sanford was on some special mission and he would show up anytime soon.
But he didn’t.
Weeks dragged into months and still no word about Sanford. With Robert’s death and Sanford missing, Daniel and Russel hadn’t really spent much time talking with each other much over the last several months.
It was Memorial Day. Daniel sat in his room listening to music. He wanted the blaring sounds to block out his thoughts but lately, that was getting harder and harder to do. He was angry. Angry with God for letting Sanford get captured. Angry with his folks for letting Sanford go into the Marines in the first place. If they had just said “no” Sanford would be here and everything would be fine. But it wasn’t. It had been three months since they had gotten word that Sanford had been captured. A POW, that’s what they had written. And for what?
Sanford had gone to serve his country but it was the fighting that didn’t make sense. Defend his country from what? Let me be a bigger…what? Bully? What were they fighting for?
The stream of questions continued – and night after night he couldn’t come up with any answers.