Hero – noun – A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. (Dictionary.com)
Eli was designated a “hometown hero” by our local Christmas parade organizers and was asked to lead the parade last Saturday with one of our heroes.
Mike Goodrich became a hero to our family the first time we met him. In October, Tricia and I took Eli to a presidential campaign rally in Richmond, VA. It was an excellent opportunity to teach Eli about the American political process and to allow him to experience history in the making. There were about 3000 people in attendance. Our seats were so far away from the stage that Eli didn’t have a chance of seeing the candidate or the other high-ranking politicians speaking that day. There were several rows of people standing against the fences next to the stage. Even if we could find a spot for Eli, standing for a long time would be difficult, but he wanted to try. So I walked him up toward the fences in search of a place to stand.
I spotted one small opening next to where a man was sitting in a single chair. I didn’t slow down enough to think about why a man would be sitting in a single chair among a standing-room-only crowd. As we got closer, the man noticed Eli and jumped up to offer his seat. I thought, “Thank you, Lord!”
I was about to find out that this meeting was a divine appointment. After Eli sat down, the man leaned over and said something that shocked me. He said, “I love your son’s singing!” Apparently the look on my face expressed my astonishment that he somehow knew Eli! He explained that he attends our church (at a different campus than we usually attend) and heard me speak and Eli sing in the past. I thought, “Wow! This is amazing!” I looked down at the man’s pullover shirt and noticed that it read, “Wounded Warrior”. Then it clicked in my mind. I asked, “Are you Mike Goodrich?” In a characteristically humble stance, he nodded his head.
I had never met Mike before, but he was somewhat of a legend in our church. Not only was he actively fighting on the front lines for our country, but he had coordinated an effort for soldiers in his compound to watch live online services from our home church. To us back home, their meetings became affectionately known as Afghanistan Community Church!
Several months ago during an enemy attack, Mike was wounded. A rocket landed just a few feet from him and blasted shrapnel throughout his body. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, his chin bone was sheered from his jaw, and his leg was deeply embedded with metal and other debris.
After giving up his chair to Eli at the campaign rally, Mike shifted the weight on his leg every few minutes to relieve the pain. It didn’t matter how many times I, and others, offered to get Mike another chair. Upon each offer, he would look down at Eli and then look us straight in the eye and say with a soldier’s determination, “No, I’m fine”. As Eli’s dad, knowing that one of America’s bravest men was standing watch over my son created a moment that I’ll never forget.
So, thank you to our hometown community in Powhatan, Virginia … Thank you for honoring Eli while allowing us to join you in honoring our friend and hero, Mike Goodrich, and his family.