November 11, 2003,
My son, Brian McPhillips, signed letters he addressed to me, "Love Always, Your Son." It is a great privilege to be Brian's mother not simply because of his ultimate sacrifice for me, as his fellow American, but because from his first to his final hour, I shared in his gift of eternal love.
As his father, sister, and I wrapped him in our love for the last time, and laid him to rest, I prayed the whole world would grow silent for just a moment to hear his heart beat once more in this, the country he loved, protected and served so well and in Iraq, where he laid down his life for freedom.
Truly "a man for others," Brian was born with a rare "fullness of life," a gift from his Creator, a gift into which he grew more and more of a man each passing year. It was a joy to watch his independent thinking emerge, to follow him as his new interests peaked, and to understand that his natural kindness toward others had the ability to change hearts and minds forever to know that he died as he loved to live as a leader of men.
We will all remember him as a regular boy, a watchful and caring older brother, who shared an extraordinary friendship with his father, and a deep and understanding love for me, for our family, our country, and for the world. We are all in awe of our young hero, not only for the courage that sealed his final hour, or for the four years he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but for everything about him that culminated into the decision he made to serve America and our world.
Since the predawn hours of April 6, when the walls of our home reverberated with pounding on the door and the solemn pronouncement that our son had died in battle, so many broken hearts have passed our way. Grown men weep openly.
Well-wishers from near and far send their condolences, and we are most grateful.
But I am asking something more. To thank our son for freely giving his life, my response to those who ask what they can do for us is, "Please, in whatever way you can, take a lasting step closer to your God today. Please do this, so together we can go on to build a better world."
Making the ultimate sacrifice, Brian "laid down his life for his friends." A man of faith, he knew to Whom he should turn when life was difficult. We often talked about his role as "father" to his 111 men.
"Pray, Bri, when your men stand in formation before you. Pray for them." "I will, Mom."
When the terror of the battlefield entered my own heart and the agonizing weeks of waiting stretched on and on, I found comfort in knowing that Brian knew his Lord.
When I learned of his death, I was consoled by his true gift of love for all people.
In the days and weeks and months that are ahead as we get used to our lives without Brian, I will pray that each one of you, who has let me share the "story" of just one of America's great heroes, will help us in our grief, by accepting the light of God's love from Brian's hand.
Hold it and pass it on. Please let Brian who died, and Jessica Lynch and all the rest who lived, know there are many with the courage to rescue our world with love, and make it new again.
To you my dear and faithful son, from earth to heaven I salute you, and may you stand forever in the brilliance and the glory of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Julie McPhillips, of Pembroke, Mass., is the mother of 1st Lt. Brian M. McPhillips (USMC), killed in Iraq on April 4. This appeared in April in the Providence Journal.