Our Views: Cost of war is still paid at home

June 13, 2014 

The death of Army Spc. Terry Hurne of Atwater in Afghanistan this week brings to 33 the number of military personnel killed from our area even as the war on terrorism winds down.

His death is a grim reminder, in our busy lives where we often forget about our military personnel overseas, about the supreme sacrifice still being made by families in the name of freedom. As Hurne family friend Kevin Navarra told the Merced Sun-Star’s Ramona Giwargis this week, “You always think it won’t happen to us. But when it hits close to home, there’s an even deeper appreciation for the sacrifice they made for all of us.”

Father’s Day takes on extra poignancy for Norman Hurne, Terry’s dad, because the news of his son’s death comes days before the holiday.

“I always told Terry he was chosen,” said Hurne in an interview with The Bee this week, “and he took that with him.”

Hurne adopted Terry and his year-younger sister, Christine, when Terry was about 2 years old, he said.

“We were told he doesn’t open up by his case workers,” Hurne said. “I brought a ball along with me, and he opened right up. We played ball for almost the whole time we had for visitation.”

The 34-year-old Atwater High School graduate was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He was responsible for “cleaning up” and tearing down barracks, his dad said. What makes the soldier’s death even more heart-breaking is that the loss comes weeks before he was scheduled to come home July 4.

Terry Hurne and wife Natalie married eight years ago. They had no children. They were stationed at Fort Drum in New York, but were planning to drive back to Merced over the Fourth of July weekend. He joined the military in 2007.

Hurne liked to volunteer his time to Last Hope Cat Kingdom, an animal rescue in Atwater. He also left his dog there when he was stationed in New York.

A little empathy goes a long way

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective and emotions. It builds trust and confidence and is key to developing healthy relationships. But it appears our ability to share other people’s emotional experiences has been in decline.

Notes Sara Konrath in an article for Michigan News, the University of Michigan’s periodical, “We found the biggest drop (in empathy) after the year 2000. College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standardized tests of this personality trait.” Konrath has compiled the results of 72 different studies of American college students, done since 1979.

We could learn a valuable lesson on empathy from Erin Benning, the 14-year-old Hilmar teen who started a drive that has raised more than $50,000 to offset medical costs for Kaiden Pacheco. The 7-year-old has Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant tumor that attacks muscles. Erin had never met Kaiden, but has become a presence in Kaiden’s life as the youngster undergoes chemotherapy.

The lack of empathy is not limited to millennials, as is apparent from recent events. A little empathy in our national dialogue would go a long way in tempering the judgmental firestorms being waged on, for instance, on the release of POW Bowe Bergdahl.

Practicing empathy is essential for building a meaningful life and fostering a culture that values others.

Give dad his due on Sunday

Father’s Day is credited to one of two women and their love for their dads. But the national day to celebrate paternal bonds and the influence of dads really took off when a New York trade group began promoting it in 1938.

Grace Golden Clayton of Fairmont, Va., organized the first Father’s Day church service in 1908 to honor her late father and 360 men, more than a third of whom were fathers, who died in a mine explosion.

Two years later, in 1910, Sonora Louise Smart got the idea for a celebration of fathers during a church sermon about Mother’s Day. Smart’s mother had died in childbirth with her sixth child, and Smart and her father had raised her five brothers.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. A permanent national observance was established in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon.

In reality, every day is Father’s Day. There’s no need to lavish dads with gifts or a Hallmark holiday reminder to show appreciation. If you are blessed with a loving and dedicated father, make sure he knows it. If you have a difficult or broken bond, work toward fixing it.

And to all you fathers, enjoy your day.

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