The sound of Taps mournfully resounded across the hills of Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Greenville, S.C. as Geoffrey Alexander Whitsitt was laid to rest this afternoon. This ended a lifelong dream of a young man who was born on February 5, 1988, in Travelers Rest, S.C. As a young boy growing up, he often voiced his desire to serve in the military. His brother, Steven, serves in the U.S. Navy; Geoff served in the U.S. Army.
Geoff was one of two soldiers killed Wednesday, January 13, when their vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device at Combat Outpost McClain in central Afghanistan’s Logar province, south of Kabul. He was assigned to the 118th Military Police Company (Airborne), 503rd Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
The back of the bulletin at the funeral reads as follows: “Geoff was a believer. He was a believer in America and a believer in the King of all creation, a citizen of the freest, most blessed land in the world, and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
“Geoff wanted that kingdom to come. He prayed for that kingdom to come. He worked for that kingdom to come. He served for that kingdom to come. In the end, he went there before the invisible became visible here.
“He will always live in the hearts of his mom and dad. They love him, led him, admired him, and gave him up for the rest of us. Their gift reminds us of the gift of all gifts- a Father who had sovereign control over all aspects of His Son’s substitutionary death, and who gave Him up for us all.
“Geoff lives in the nail-pierced hands of that Savior, and no one can snatch him out of those hands”
These paragraphs closed with these words taken from of a note which he had handwritten:
“Gotta go. Love you guys! Love, Geoff “
In the homegoing celebration which was held for Geoff, a special resolution was read by the Honorable Bob Inglis, U.S. Congressman from Greenville, S.C. Moving testimonies were given by his mom and dad, and his brother, Steve. Steve, who serves in the Navy, admonished those in the audience who had never accepted the Lord as Savior to do so today. A special friend and buddy in the army, Ryan McClymonds, gave a fitting tribute to one who served with him in the Army.
One of the things which his father said will always remain in my memory: he and Geoff were conversing by phone a short while ago. Geoff told his father that he had killed a man. The thought that went through his mind was “I have killed someone’s daddy.” Even in war, Geoff was tenderhearted. This is so sad, but it is a fact of war. I have often wondered what a soldier goes through when he is faced with the reality of pulling the trigger when a man is in the site at the end of the rifle barrel.
Geoff was buried in a special section at Woodlawn Memorial Park reserved for men and women who have served in the military. Two parts of the committal service were especially moving: (1) the folding of the flag. I wonder what thoughts were going through the minds of Geoff’s parents, Steve & Debby Whitsitt, as they watched the soldiers in military precision folding up the flag which had covered Geoff’s casket; (2) the 21 gun salute- a fitting tribute to a young man who had given his all for us. With that, he was laid to rest.
In all my years, this was the first military funeral which I had ever attended. The military precision, the sharp looking young men, and the camaraderie of those serving our country together, made me feel proud and grateful. While it was terribly sad realizing that a young man’s life had been snuffed out, it was also a joyous occasion knowing that his was a life well-lived. I am sorry that I never had the privilege of knowing him in this life, however, I knew his grandfather, Harry Bains.
Geoff died in the service at a younger age than I was when I served in the U.S. Air Force. He was 21 and would have been 22 on February 5, 2010. I was 22 when I joined the Air Force in November of 1956. Ever since I had the distinct privilege and honor of serving my country and my God in military service, I have always deeply admired our young men and women who unselfishly give themselves to fighting for and defending our rights and freedoms. I get very upset when I hear people speaking disparagingly of our military men and women. If I could live my life again, and if the Lord would allow me, I would gladly give my life in service as a military man. I think that serving in the military is the one of the finest thing a young person can do.
What a sobering fact to realize that when we moved to Greenville in June of 1988, Geoff was a babe of four months in his mother’s arms. Now at age 21, he lies in the arms of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, but his body lies entombed in the cold red clay of the Carolinas. There, awaiting the call of the trumpet and the resurrection, his body lies in repose, but his spirit has departed to be forever with the Lord.
Are we mindful every day of the supreme sacrifice which hundreds of young men and women have made for us?
Written by Mel Lacock, a fellow classmate who graduated with me from Bob Jones University in 1956
Here is a letter I received from Dr. James Dobson that is worthwhile reading. Most of this letter comes from his book, Bringing Up Boys. This information is important to everyone, whether you are parents of boys or not. May God bless you as you take time to read this.
It has been a little more than a year since I shared with you the first half of the chapter titled “Staying Close” from Bringing Up Boys. At the time (February 2003), it was my intention to follow up the next month with the concluding portion of the chapter. However, numerous family-related concerns, each of which I felt deserved attention in my letter, arose throughout the subsequent months. As a result, part two of “Staying Close” had to be put on hold. But now as Spring 2004 approaches, I’m pleased to offer you the second and final installment. I hope you’ll discover that it was worth the wait!
As a writer and speaker, the material I am about to share is very near and dear to my heart. It involves the words we use-or abuse-as we communicate with those around us. It has been suggested that the most powerful weapon in the world is not a gun or even a nuclear bomb, but rather, the tongue. I wholeheartedly agree. The Scriptures repeatedly remind us that with our words, we can either encourage or discourage, forgive or condemn, lift up or tear down. Although the following excerpt comes from Bringing Up Boys, it is applicable not only to those with a boy in the home, but to everyone. As you read it, I encourage you to consider whether your own words are helpful or hurtful to those around you. While we are talking about relationships, there is another issue we should discuss. It concerns the sheer power of words. They are so easy to utter, often tumbling out without much reason or forethought. Those who hurl criticism or hostility at others may not even mean or believe what they have said. Their comments may reflect momentary jealousy, resentment, depression, fatigue or revenge. Regardless of the intent, harsh words sting like killer bees.
Almost all of us, including you and me, have lived through moments when a parent, a teacher, a friend, a colleague, a husband or a wife said something that cut to the quick. That hurt is now sealed forever in the memory bank. That is an amazing property of the spoken word. Even though a person forgets most of his or her day-by-day experiences, a particularly painful comment may be remembered for decades. By contrast, the individual who did the damage may have no memory of the encounter a few days later. Former first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, told a story about her father, who never affirmed her as a child. When she was in high school, she brought home a straight A report card. She showed it to her dad, hoping for a word of commendation. Instead he said, “Well, you must be attending an easy school.” Thirty-five years later the remark still burns in Mrs. Clinton’s mind. His thoughtless response may have represented nothing more than a casual quip, but it created a point of pain that has endured to this day.1
If you doubt the power of words, remember what John the disciple wrote under divine inspiration. He said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”(John 1:1, NIV) John was describing Jesus, the Son of God, who was identified personally with words. That makes the case about as well as it will ever be demonstrated. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each record a related prophetic statement made by Jesus that confirms the eternal nature of His teachings. He said, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NIV) We remember what He said to this hour, more than two thousand years later. Clearly, words matter.
There is additional wisdom about the impact of words written in the book of James. The passage reads: “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body; but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:3-6, NIV)
Have you ever set yourself on fire with sparks spraying from your tongue? More important, have you ever set a child’s spirit on fire with anger? All of us have made that costly mistake. We knew we had blundered the moment the comment flew out of our mouths, but it was too late. If we tried for a hundred years, we couldn’t take back a single remark. The first year Shirley and I were married, she became very angry with me about something that neither of us can recall. In the frustration of the moment she said, “If this is marriage, I don’t want any part of it.” She didn’t mean it and regretted her words almost immediately. An hour later we had reconciled and forgiven each other, but Shirley’s statement could not be taken back. We’ve laughed about it through the years and the issue is inconsequential today, Still there is nothing either of us can do to erase the utterance of the moment.
Words are not only remembered for a lifetime, but if not forgiven, they endure beyond the chilly waters of death. We read in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (NIV) Thank God, those of us who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are promised that our sins- our harsh words- will be remembered against us no more and will be removed “as far as the east is from the west” ( Psalm 103:12 (NIV) Apart from that atonement, however, our words will follow us forever. I didn’t intend to preach a sermon here, because I am not a minister or theologian. But I find great inspiration for all family relationships within the great wisdom of the Scriptures. And so it is with the impact of what we say. The scary thing for us as parents is that we never know when the mental videotape is running during our interaction with children and teens. A comment that means little to us at the time may “stick” and be repeated long after we are dead and gone.
By contrast, the warm and affirming things we say about our sons may be a source of satisfaction for decades. Again, it is all in the power of words. Here’s something else to remember. The circumstances that precipitated a hurtful comment for a child or teen are irrelevant to their impact. Let me explain. Even though a child pushes you to the limit, frustrating and angering you to the point of exasperation, you will nevertheless pay a price for overreacting. Let’s suppose you lose your poise and shout, “I can’t stand you! I wish you belonged to someone else.” Or, “I can’t believe you failed another test. How could a son of mine be so stupid!” Even if every normal parent would also have been agitated in the same situation, your child will not focus on his misbehavior in the future. He is likely to forget what he did to cause the outburst. But he will recall the day that you said you didn’t want him or that he was stupid. It isn’t fair, but neither is life. I know I’m stirring a measure of guilt into the mix with these comments. (My words are powerful too, aren’t they?) My purpose, however, is not to hurt you but to make you mindful that everything you say has lasting meaning for a child. He may forgive you later for “setting the fire,” but how much better it would have been to stay cool. You can learn to do that with prayer and practice.
It will help to understand that we are most likely to say something hurtful when we are viscerally angry. The reason is because of a powerful biochemical reaction going on inside. The human body is equipped with an automatic defense system called the “fight or flight” mechanism, which prepares the entire organism for action. When we are upset or frightened, adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream, setting off a series of physiological responses within the body. In a matter of seconds, the individual is transformed from a quiet condition to an “alarm reaction” state. The result is a red-faced father or mother who shouts things he or she has no intention of saying. These biochemical changes are involuntary, operating quite apart from conscious choice.
What is voluntary, however, is our reaction to them. We can learn to take a step back in a moment of excitation. We can choose to hold our tongue and remove ourselves from a provoking situation. As you have heard, it is wise to count to 10 (or 500) before responding. It is extremely important to do this when we’re dealing with children who anger us. We can control the impulse to lash out verbally or physically, doing what we will certainly regret when the passion has cooled. What should we do when we have lost control and said something that has deeply wounded a child? The answer is, we should repair the damage as quickly as possible.
I have many fanatic golfing friends who have tried vainly to teach me their crazy game. They never give up even though it is a lost cause. One of them told me that I should immediately replace the divot after digging yet another hole with my club. He said that the quicker I could get the tuft of grass back into place, the faster its roots would reconnect. My friend was talking about golf, but I was thinking about people. When you have hurt someone, whether a child, a spouse or a colleague, you must dress the wound before infection sets in. Apologize, if appropriate. Talk it out. Seek to reconcile. The longer the “divot” bakes in the sun, the smaller will be its chances for recovery. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
Of course, the apostle Paul beats us to it. He wrote more than two thousand years ago, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26,NIV) That scripture has often been applied to husbands and wives, but I think it is just as valid with children.
Before I leave the subject of words, I want to address the issue of profanity. I find it very distressing to witness the way filth and sacrilege have infiltrated our speech in Western nations. Cursing and swearing are so common today that even our preschoolers talk like the sailors of yesterday. It has not always been the case. During my teaching days in a public junior high school, bad language was not permitted. I’m sure it happened when kids were alone, but not within the hearing of the faculty. One day, one of my better students used God’s name in a sacrilegious way. I was very disappointed in her. Believe it or not, having taught several hundred kids per year, that was the only time I remember hearing a boy or girl talk like that. I pointed out to her that one of the Ten Commandments instructed us not to use the Lord’s name in vain and that we should be careful how we talked. I think she believed me. That occurred in 1963. How radically things have changed since then! Now almost every student, it seems, uses profanity- disgusting references to bodily functions and sexual behavior. Girls curse as much as boys.
Since President Bill Clinton’s escapade with Monica Lewinski in the White House, even elementary school kids have talked openly about oral sex, as though it were no big deal.2 More and more of them are trying it than ever before. As a matter of fact, sexually transmitted diseases of the mouth and throat are reaching epidemic proportions among junior- and senior-high students. We have become a profane and immoral people, both young and old. Nevertheless, the ancient commandments haven’t changed. This is what the Scripture tells us particularly about the casual use of God’s name. I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One In Israel. -Ezekiel 39:7, NIV They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. -Ezekiel 44:23, NIV Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
– Matthew 5:37 NIV
If we are to believe the validity of these and other passages in the Bible, our profanity is an offense to God. It is a terrible thing to drag the names of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit through the gutter, using them as curse words or to punctuate our sentences in everyday conversation. Even Christians often say, “God” in casual situations. At times when I hear what is very sacred being defiled and mocked, I utter a silent prayer, asking our Heavenly father to forgive our disrespect and heal our land. It is time we stand up for what we believe and teach these eternal truths to our children. I am recommending herewith that you give major emphasis to your children’s language. No, we shouldn’t be as legalistic as my father was. The phrase “Hot dog!” is probably not a biggie. But there is a place for clean, wholesome, respectful speech. Especially, you should not permit your child to mock the name of God.
The primary reason I have provided Scriptures above is to help you teach these biblical concepts in your home. Read and discuss “the Word” to establish this vital principle. By teaching a reverence for things that are holy, you are demonstrating that our beliefs are to be taken seriously and that we are accountable to the Lord for the way we behave. It is also a way of teaching principles of civility that should be a central objective of your leadership at home.
Dr. Dobson concludes his letter as follows.
As our culture grows increasingly self-centered and mean-spirited, it is comforting to remember that, for us, God’s Word is an anchor in the stormy sea. It is also, as the psalmist wrote, “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV) If we will use the Scriptures to guide both the tone and content of our conversations, we will be very well served indeed. With that I will bid you farewell until next month. Thanks to those of you who continue to stand alongside this ministry through your prayers and financial support- they are deeply appreciated. God’s blessings to each one of you.
Sincerely, James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman
Focus on the Family www.family.org
1. Martha Sherrill, “Mrs. Clinton’s Two Weeks out of Time: The Vigil for He Father, Taking a Toll Both
Public and Private,” Washington Post, 2 April, 1993,p.C1:
2. Laura Sessions Stepp, Parents Are Alarmed by an Unsettling New Fad in Middle Schools: Oral Sex,”
Washington Post, 8 July 1999, p.1A
Publication’s title: Family News from Dr. James DobsonIssue date: March 2004Issue number: 3Statement of frequency: Published monthlyAuthorized organization’s name and address: Focus on the Family Colorado Springs, CO. 80995This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Focus on the Family. Copyright 2004 Focus on the Family.All rights reserved. International Copyright Secured.Printed in the U.S.A.