When Mark Starr graduated from Beebe High School, the Army was the best of limited options. He joined in time to see action in Gulf War I.
It was a down payment on college. Thanks to Army service, he completed a master's degree in social work and became a counselor to troubled school kids. He didn't sever his military connection. He joined the National Guard and became a sergeant in the 39th Infantry's support battalion.
I became acquainted with Mark many years ago. He called me at home, hours after a Christmas holiday weekend had begun. He was then a college intern in the Pulaski County family services office. The sponsor of the office's Christmas gifts for foster kids had fallen through. Mark couldn't stand the thought of foster children without a gift from Santa. His frantic round of calling for help led him to me.
I had never met Mark Starr, but I couldn't deny his earnest heart. I put a check in my mailbox for him as I left town, never having met him in person. His kids had Christmas. I later wrote about the good deed he and others had done.
Mark came back into my life unexpectedly this week, through an e-mail Monday from his mother, Suzanne.
"Tonight Mark is in a hospital in Germany and will be flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio within the next few days. Mark's unit was hit early Saturday morning and he was severely burned.
"We have spoken to him several times since yesterday and his main concern is for his friends who did not make it. He keeps saying over and over that they had children and he didn't. He will recover from his injuries but internal healing of the heart and soul take longer.
"Yes, I am proud of my son as he always wants to do the right thing. But Mr. Brantley I do not believe this war is the right thing. When will the sacrifice be too great for Mr. Bush? Mr. Bush is very lucky the 39th did not decide to hide out for 18 months as he did during his enlistment during Vietnam.
"I can't believe the public is buying what he is selling. It is utter chaos and carnage in Iraq. We see dead people on television … and turn the channel and see Mr. Bush telling everyone how far we have come and how much better things are there now. ….
"Yes, I am proud of our troops and agonizing for our fallen ones, but I am not proud of our president or this war."
My comments would be irrelevant. I would add that Mark has told his mother that his rehab may be lengthy but doctors believe his burned leg can be saved. Also, his scheduled arrival Monday at the burn center in San Antonio was delayed. Mrs. Starr said Mark was among injured being held up Wednesday at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois awaiting a plane for the next leg of what will be a long journey home.