Blake Stephens sacrificed himself for all of us

Idaho State Journal Editorial

Many people in Pocatello knew 25-year-old Blake Stephens.
They knew his smile, they knew his fun-loving attitude, they knew he was a friend worth having.
Stephens was also a patriot and believed strongly in America. He joined the military while still attending Century High School and re-enlisted, knowing full well what that meant.
He would be going to war-torn Iraq. He would be putting himself in harm’s way in defense of our country, so that the rest of us could stay at home, go to school, work our jobs, raise families and live out the American dream.
On Tuesday, Stephens was killed by a roadside bomb while on a security convoy near Baghdad.
Idaho State Journal Editorial

Many people in Pocatello knew 25-year-old Blake Stephens.
They knew his smile, they knew his fun-loving attitude, they knew he was a friend worth having.
Stephens was also a patriot and believed strongly in America. He joined the military while still attending Century High School and re-enlisted, knowing full well what that meant.
He would be going to war-torn Iraq. He would be putting himself in harm’s way in defense of our country, so that the rest of us could stay at home, go to school, work our jobs, raise families and live out the American dream.
On Tuesday, Stephens was killed by a roadside bomb while on a security convoy near Baghdad.
He leaves behind a young wife, Erin; his parents, Trent and Kathleen; and many, many friends.
The death of a young person seems to be not just a tragedy, but a huge injustice. No one’s existence should be stolen away before they can live to a ripe old age and experience a full life.
There are some who will say that Stephens’ death is made even more tragic because it happened in an unpopular war.
Some will blame his death on our nation’s leaders and say this is one more reason to not support them or our military efforts in Iraq.
But the fact that Stephens died fighting for all of us in a war that some Americans do not support tells us volumes about his character.
He loved his country and was willing to sacrifice his own life defending it. He believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq — to bring democracy and peace to that troubled nation.
He did the fighting and the dying, so the rest of us could live here in peace.
Stephens was a really neat person. He was a talented tattoo artist and served as an LDS missionary in the Netherlands and Belgium. When 9-11 happened, he was on his Mormon mission in Europe but returned home to serve his country. Stephens was a member of the National Guard at the time and tried every avenue possible to be deployed to Afghanistan, where U.S. troops were battling al-Qaida and Taliban forces.
He was eventually sent to Hill Air Force Base near Salt Lake City, where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Erin.
When Stephens’ enlistment with the National Guard expired, he re-enlisted in the Army because he wanted to serve in Iraq.
While other Americans criticize the war there as futile, Stephens wanted to be there so he could make a difference.
In honor of Stephens, a group of Boy Scouts, National Guard soldiers, friends and family lined the road from Century High School to his nearby home with American flags. Driving past the wind-swept red, white and blue of so many stars, so many stripes sends home the message that the freedom we all enjoy and take for granted is not free.
It requires the highest of sacrifices. It requires that really awesome people with bright futures, like Stephens, give up their lives for the rest of us.
There’s no justice in his death except that he sacrificed his life serving the country he loved. He knew what could happen to him in Iraq, yet he tried hard to get there because he felt so strongly about his nation and its war on terror.
The flags blowing in the Idaho wind that line the roads from Century High to Stephens’ home are the most fitting of tributes to this American soldier.
He died defending our flag and all it stands for. He sacrificed himself for all of us.
Stephens might be gone from this world, but we should never, ever forget him.