While I only met him once, Aaron Carl Torian grew up in the church, Heartland Worship Center (AKA Bible Baptist Church) in Paducah, Kentucky, where I am one of the pastors. I never knew him except for a quick hello here and there but I heard about him often. I heard how he had immense passion for his country and that many of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to his volunteering. Aaron understood that freedom had a price. He was willing to sacrifice it all to protect that freedom for you and me.
While I’ll never know exactly all that he did, I know that he was a sniper and that his rank was a Master Sergeant. I read how he was named 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. I know that he was well respected by all who spoke of him and that he received great honors over his career. The word is on the street that he saved several lives of other soldiers and civilians. That he risked his life for their benefit.
There is a lot I don’t know about Aaron but I do know this… He is a Hero. A hero is someone who gives his or her life to something greater than themselves. That was Aaron. He was adored by his mom and step-dad. Adored by his children. Adored by his church. He is not just a hero because he died doing what he loved, defending our country. He was a hero before that. My guess is all his brothers who served with him would tell you that we in the states only know a small fraction of all the reasons Aaron is a hero. The sacrifices he made. The courage it must have taken to go where he went and to do what he was called to. The brotherhood he shared that very few will ever experience.
I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have spent time with him to see what motivated him. I wish I could have been inspired personally by his passion. To be challenged by his discipline. To be a better person because I spent time with him. When I heard he was killed in service my heart broke as if he were someone very close to me. When heroes die we all feel the weight of it. We know that we have lost someone significant to the very world we know.
Most of all I am thankful for Aaron’s faith. That he put his ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart and to the heart of those who knew Aaron than to know he is now in Heaven. A place where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain. A place that Aaron will be able to rest and enjoy His Lord for all eternity. I will see you one day Aaron and I will be honored to call you a brother and to enjoy the presence of the Lord with you for all eternity. For now I honor you and remember your sacrifice for me and my family. Thanks for reminding me what constitutes being a hero.
To his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2, we will do our part to remember well the man you called Husband and Father. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that his memory will live on in the hearts of a nation.