Did you know that the Hebrew patriarch Moses wrote a poem? It’s Psalm 90, and it’s filled with surprising melancholy imagery about the brevity of life.
Perhaps one of its most famous sections read, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
That’s wise counsel because none of us know how long we have on this earth. Just look at the example of 25-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.
By all account, Elchin stood as a highly successful military member and person. His family adored him and he’d earned numerous honors.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Beaver County, Pennsylvania, resident had earned a Bronze Star (heroic service in combat) and a Purple Heart (being wounded in combat). In addition to other honors, he’d also received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated (so young),” his brother Aaron said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did, so I’m not surprised that he got as far as he did.”
The Air Force staff sergeant had been deployed to Afghanistan in August to assist on-the-ground forces. It was a highly specialized assignment, one in which only a truly skilled warrior could’ve assisted.
But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Elchin and several other servicemen were in a vehicle when Taliban forces detonated a roadside bomb. Four people died from that blast, one of which was Elchin.
His family and hometown were shocked by the loss. The attack has proved one of the most deadly in Afghanistan over the past year and a half.
Business Insider reported that Aaron Elchin said, “We’re all basically waiting to wake up. We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
That feeling extended to the community as a whole. Elchin had left an impact that remained felt for years.
“(He) was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” his former middle school principal, Carrie Rowe, said. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Elchin’s sacrifice hasn’t gone unmarked outside of his friends and family. His body returned to the United States on Nov. 23.
When the plane landed, a special delegation of six troops reverently transferred the flag-draped coffin. Vice President Mike Pence was one of the witnesses.
The honors can’t help to fill the void left in his family’s life after his loss. Aaron Elchin recalled the final time he spoke with his brother via Facetime.
“I told him that I love him,” he said. “And I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I’d talk to him.”
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