Whit sat comfortably in his favorite easy chair in the living room quietly reading The Terminus Factor, a new and quite popular book that he had recently purchased. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon and Jason and Jana were due to be home from school soon.

Jenny was in the kitchen breading chicken breasts for the Chicken Parmesan she was making for dinner that evening. She was thankful for these common and even mundane tasks as staying busy helped her to keep her mind off of Jerry. The eldest Whittaker child had been away serving in Vietnam for exactly five months. Since the day he left the entire Whittaker family had been missing him terribly and were constantly worried about his safety. Every day they were reminded that an important part of their family was gone. They missed the way he was always willing to help someone with whatever they needed, his joyful and loving spirit, and how he was the best big brother to Jana and Jason as he was always encouraging them, helping them with their schoolwork, comforting them whenever they were going through a difficult time, serving as a wonderful role model to look up to, and teaching them new and exciting things.

But life had to go on and so they all carried on as best they could and took comfort in the fact that Jerry felt God's calling to go to Vietnam to serve his country. They also prayed every day for Jerry's protection as well as for strength to endure this difficult time and excitedly looked forward to the day when he would, at last, come home.

There was then a knock at the door. Jenny looked up from her work but before she could start making her way to the door Whit called out, "Don't worry Honey, I'll get it!"

"Thanks, Dear" Jenny replied.

Whit wondered what he could use to mark his place in the book he was reading. He then spotted Jerry's postcard on the side table beside his chair, which had arrived a little bit earlier that day. Perfect. It'll also remind me to show it to Jana and Jason when they get home, Whit thought. He reached for the postcard, placed it on the page he was on, closed the book, and set it on the side table.

Whit then stood up, walked to the front door, and opened it. There in front of him stood two men in class A uniform, a blank expression on each of their faces. Whit began to feel an impending sense of doom as he knew there was only one reason for this type of visit. A grave expression appeared on his face.

"Are you John Avery Whittaker?" Sergeant First Class Williamson asked.

"Yes, I'm John Avery Whittaker," Whit replied solemnly.

"I'm Sergeant First Class Williamson and this is Chaplain Hardwick. May we enter your home?"

"Of course." He held open the door, allowing the two men to enter the residence. After they had stepped inside Whit closed the door and walked to where Chaplain Hardwick and Sergeant Williamson now stood in the living room.

"Is your wife Jenny here?" Sergeant Williamson asked.

"Yes, she is."

"It would be best if she was here with you," Sergeant Williamson said.

"Certainly," Whit replied as calmly as he could.

Whit walked out of the living room and into the kitchen where Jenny had just finished breading the chicken and was washing her hands at the sink.

"So who was at the door?" she asked, her gaze directed out the window located above the sink through which you could view the backyard.

"Jenny," Whit said in a serious tone, causing her to turn around and look directly at him. As soon as she saw the somber look on his face she knew something was seriously wrong.

"John, what's wrong?" she asked, deep concern in her voice.

"Two men from the state department are here. They want to see us in the living room."

Jenny stood frozen for a moment. Her gaze fell to the floor as she realized the all but confirmed meaning of their visit. After a few seconds, Jenny took a deep breath and looked up again.

"All right," she said hesitantly. Whit walked towards Jenny and took her hand in his. They then made their way to the living room where Sergeant Williamson and Chaplain Hardwick were waiting.

"I'd think it would be best if you both were seated," Sergeant Williamson suggested. Whit and Jenny sat down on the couch, anxiously waiting for the men to speak again and praying to God that what they believed to be the reason for this visit wasn't so.

Sergeant Williamson then spoke, "Mr. Whittaker, Mrs. Whittaker, the Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son, Jerry, was killed in action outside Saigon, South Vietnam."

Whit and Jenny were overcome by unimaginable grief. Tears began to fill Whit's eyes but he fought them back — wanting to keep his composure in front of the men and most importantly be able to comfort Jenny who had broken down sobbing. "No..no...Jerry...Jerry. My baby….my baby," she cried. Whit took his wife in his arms and held her as tightly as he could.

Sergeant Williamson continued speaking, though with great difficulty, as he witnessed firsthand the anguish Whit and Jenny were experiencing over the loss of their eldest son. "It happened on a local village woman's farm. There was a skirmish and Jerry saved the owner's life by pushing her to the ground to protect her from the gunfire. In doing so, he was hit and mortally wounded. He died later at a nearby base. The Secretary extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in this tragic loss. A casualty assistance officer will contact you within twenty-four hours," he paused, pulled out a document and pen from a folder he carried, and placed them out on the coffee table in front of Whit. "Mr. Whittaker, I need you to sign here to confirm that you can be reached at this address and phone number," he continued, pointing to the signature line.

Whit picked up the pen and signed his signature on the sheet of paper. He then placed the pen back on the coffee table next to the document. "Thank you," Sergeant Williamson said as he picked up the paper and pen and placed them back into the folder.

Chaplain Hardwick then spoke, "Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you both and your family during this difficult time. Your son was a hero Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker, but more importantly than that he believed. He knew that death wasn't the end but rather the beginning of an eternity with the Lord. I hope that you both will find comfort in that."

"Thank you," Whit said gravely.

Sergeant Williamson said, "We will leave you both alone now to let you mourn in private."

He and Chaplain Hardwick walked away towards the front door. Chaplain Hardwick opened the door and stepped outside into the cold autumn air. Just as Sergeant Williamson was about to exit the home he turned toward Jenny and Whit and spoke one final time "Again on behalf of the Secretary please accept the United States Army's deepest condolences in your loss." He then left and closed the front door, leaving the grieving parents alone.

Whit, no longer able to hold back his grief, broke down in tears. He and Jenny sat there holding onto each other — crying as they had never had before.

Throughout their many years of marriage, they had experienced many ups and downs — highs and lows — joys and sorrows. They had expected to experience many more together in the future. But never did they imagine that they would feel the agonizing and heartbreaking pain of losing a child — something which was every parent's worst fear. Yet here they were — their worst nightmare now a reality. It seemed so unfair that someone so young, handsome, and full of life with so much promise — someone who they had loved with their whole hearts would be taken from them so tragically.

Their minds were filled with thoughts of all the things that Jerry would never be able to accomplish and the dreams he'd never get the chance to make a reality. Never would he be able to attend USC, his Mom and Dad's alma mater, or be able to visit the Great Wall of China which he had longed to see in person ever since reading about it in a history textbook when he was eight years old. He would never be able to get married and have a wonderful loving family of his own, just like his parents, which was his wish for his sixteenth birthday. Gone from their lives was his sweet voice, beautiful smile, infectious laugh, and kind generous heart. For Jenny and Whit, it felt like someone had taken their hearts and broken them into a million pieces and they couldn't see how they would ever be whole again.

Jason had made it back from school and was now walking on the sidewalk in front of the Whittaker home. When he reached the house he walked up the walkway to the front door and opened it.

"Mom, Dad I'm h—" Jason stopped short as he entered the living room and his eyes came to rest on his parents sitting on the couch, sobbing in each other's arms.

Jason instantly began to experience feelings of fear, anger, and sadness. Seeing his parents in such an emotional state he was almost certain about what had taken place but he refused to believe it. It can't be! No! Nothing can happen to Jerry!

Hearing their now only surviving son's voice, Whit and Jenny broke apart and wiped their eyes — trying to compose themselves as best they could. They made their way over to where Jason stood. Jenny crouched down to her son's eye level and placed her hands tenderly on the sides of his arms. Whit stood just behind Jenny and placed his hands on her shoulders in an attempt to bring her some small bit of comfort as they told Jason the tragic news about his brother.

"Jason…" Jenny's voice trailed off and she took a deep breath, "we..your father and I…" tears started running down Jason's cheeks as Jenny continued, "we're sorry we have to tell you this, but your bro—"

"No!" Jason shouted, cutting Jenny off. "I won't believe it! Jerry can't be dead! I prayed every day for him to come back home again! God listens to prayers! He wouldn't let Jerry die!"

"Jason," Whit began. "sometimes God doesn't always answ—"

"No! Jerry's alive! He can't be dead! He can't be! You're lying! You're lying!" Jason screamed as he broke away from his mother and ran as fast as he could up the stairs to his room.

"Jason! Jason!" Whit and Jenny both called after him. "Jas—" their voices were abruptly cut off as Jason shut the door to his room, making them no longer audible. He threw himself on his bed and wept.

"I...I begged you not to go Jerry. I told you to go with Plato. Why didn't you go with him?" Jason cried. "Why did you have to die? Why?"

"We should have known he would take it this hard," Jenny said as she paced back and forth in the living room. "He and Jerry are...were so close." Jenny paused for a moment and continued. "Oh, John..." Jenny cried, "how are we ever going to get through this because right now I can't see how. He was our baby. We were supposed to protect him and keep him safe." Whit put his arms around her again and rubbed her back soothingly.

"I know, I know. I feel the same way right now but we have to be strong for Jana and Jason."

Jenny nodded and laid her head on Whit's shoulder. A few moments later they heard the front door open, a sound which announced that Jana had arrived home. They turned and saw their daughter standing on the other side of the living room.

Jana went pale as she saw the grief-stricken expression on her parents' faces. "It's Jerry...Isn't it?" she said, her voice trembling.

"I'm afraid so, sweetheart" Whit replied as calmly as he could.

Tears welled up in Jana's eyes. "I was always against him going to Vietnam," she began passionately, "I knew something like this would happen. I just knew it! Oh, why did Jerry…have to be so stubborn!" Jana looked at the ground as tears began to cascade down her face — images of all the moments she and Jerry had shared over the years flashing through her mind. Emotions over her brother's death overwhelmed her. "Why...why? I just don't...understand!" Jana sobbed as she ran to her parents and threw her arms around them. Whit and Jenny wrapped their arms around her and held her close. For a while the three of them just stood there, holding onto each other — no one willing to let go as they had just been reminded how quickly and unexpectedly someone you love can be taken from you.

In that moment it was hard to imagine how they would move on, much less how they would ever be happy again. But by relying on their faith and each other in time they would heal. Still, with every milestone that the family experienced, such as Jana's wedding and Jason's graduation, their minds would go back to Jerry — remembering that fateful autumn day in November when he was taken from them too soon and wishing that he could be there sharing those special moments with them. Yet, the memories they had made with Jerry, the love that they had shared as a family, and the joy that he had brought to their lives were things the Whittaker family would always treasure in their hearts.