Is this what death feels like? The thought crossed the soldier’s mind as he struggled to get up and found he could not. The enemy would be upon him soon. Of that he was certain. He thought of his wife and his daughter. His mother’s face flashed before his eyes. It was in that moment, Bryce Williams made a decision. He wasn’t going to die that day.
Wiggling his body to and fro, he managed to push himself into nearby brush. He knew the enemy would likely look there, but at least it afforded him some coverage. The rain washed the blood into the mud making it almost impossible to follow the red trail that had been there just seconds before.
Positioning himself as best he could, Bryce readied his rifle. They weren’t going to take him without a fight. In that moment, the soldier forgot all about dying. He wanted to live. He was determined to live. Something inside him told him his life wasn’t finished. There was more he was meant to do.
For a moment the soldier let the rain cool him. Then he did the only thing he could think of. He prayed.
“Father, I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few minutes. I trust that you have the situation well in hand. You always have where my life has been concerned. I’m not about to start second guessing you now. You found me a home when I was orphaned. You brought an incredible woman into my life as my bride. You gave me a beautiful baby girl. I’m a satisfied man.”
A rustle in the nearby brush startled Bryce. He held his breath, wondering if he’d been discovered. However, it was a rabbit that came forward to face him. The animal didn’t move away. In fact, it moved closer as if it were trying to offer the soldier comfort. It began grazing on the grass in front of him.
Bryce smiled and kept praying. “Like I was saying, Father, I’m a happy man. If I die now I know I’ve had the best of everything; even a little buddy to be with me so I won’t be alone in my last moments.”
Bryce looked at the rabbit with awe. It refused to leave his side. ‘Angels come in all shapes,’ he thought.
The sound of voices murmured on the road where Bryce got wounded. The enemy was at last upon him.
“Where do you think he went? I know I shot him,” one angry man said in his native tongue.
“He’s in the brush here somewhere,” another man returned. “But the rain is making him hard to track. You go left and I’ll go right,” he instructed. “Shoot to kill. We don’t need any more American prisoners.”
The first man nodded and moved across one field. Bryce Williams braced himself as the other man moved his way.
Suddenly, the rabbit took off at a fast clip. The enemy soldier heard the noise and fired two shots. Then he caught sight of the animal and sighed.
“He’s not over here. It’s just a rabbit. You got anything?”
“Nothing,” the other soldier shouted, his anger growing. “I must have missed him after all. Let’s get back to the road. He can’t be far ahead.”
Bryce heard the soldiers move back to the dirt road. He continued to breathe cautiously as he watched them walk away. The rabbit had saved his life. He took it as a sign.
“Thank you, Lord,” Bryce offered in a low whisper. “Now if you’ve got any ideas how I can get out of here before I bleed to death, I’m open,” he continued.
Just then, more rustling made Bryce jump again. Perhaps the men had doubled back for another look.
“Bunny,” a small voice called quietly. “Bunny, where are you? You know we aren’t supposed to be out here in the dark.”
Suddenly, a little girl of about nine popped out of the brush and stared at the soldier. She took in his uniform quickly and smiled. He was American. He was not the enemy.
Noticing the blood pouring from his leg, she moved forward. Pulling the scarf from her hair, she began to tie it around the wound as tightly as she could.
“My daddy taught me this,” she offered with a wan smile. “He said we should help the Americans whenever we could.” Finished, she stood up to look at him. “Can you walk?”
“I don’t think so,” Bryce admitted. “He was not certain he could put weight on his leg.”
“Wait, I have an idea,” the child said as she disappeared into the brush. She returned a few moments later with a stick. “Maybe you can lean on this.”
Bryce nodded. It was worth a try. He couldn’t stay where he was.
“You haven’t seen my rabbit by any chance?” The little girl looked around for the animal.
“I sure have. He saved my life,” Bryce admitted.
It was at that moment the rabbit returned, positioning himself between the soldier and the child.
“Good job, Bunny,” the girl cooed. She bent down to pet the rabbit. The animal allowed her touch.
“We’d better go,” the girl said as she tried to help the soldier on his feet. Bryce was surprised how well he could stand with the walking stick. Although it hurt to move, he could manage it.
“Our house isn’t far,” the child pointed. “You can see the smoke from here. Come.” With that, she took the soldier’s hand and began to lead him toward the humble abode. When they arrived, a middle-aged man came out to meet them.
“You did good, child,” he smiled at the little girl. “Come,” he told Bryce. “I can fix that wound and get you back to your men.”
Two days later, back with his platoon, Bryce Williams said his morning prayers as always. “Lord, a special blessing for my new friends, too. They saved my life,” he noted. I hope I get to return the favor.”
Bryce’s wish came true a month later when his platoon rescued a small village from the enemy. He and his friends went around circulating food and blankets. He even shared the chocolates his wife had sent him with the frightened children. It was then he came upon two familiar faces.
The little girl moved forward immediately to hug him. “Thank you for saving us. They were planning on executing us all for helping the Americans.”
Eyeing the girl’s father, Bryce stepped forward and offered the man his hand. “I’d never let that happen if I could prevent it,” he assured. “We’re taking you all somewhere safe.”
True to his word, Bryce’s battalion took the villagers to a safe camp. He spent time with the child and her father and they soon became fast friends.
“Why did you take a chance on helping me?” The question had been on Bryce’s mind from the moment of their first meeting. “You had to know, it could cost you everything.”
“I did what was right,” the man responded. “What God compelled me to do.”
“God?” Bryce seemed shocked at the name. “Do you believe in Him?”
The man smiled. “Of course I do. You’d be surprised how many of us do, even though it is forbidden.”
“I’m somewhat ashamed,” Bryce mumbled. “It is easy for me to worship. No one tries to stop me. You, however, could pay the ultimate price for your faith.”
The man nodded. “But it is worth it, don’t you think, for the salvation of one’s soul?”
Bryce embraced the man openly. “I’m so happy that we met,” he said honestly.
“So am I, brother,” the man returned. I have a favor to ask of you, though.”
“You want a favor from me?” Bryce smiled at the thought. “Anything.”
“You might not say that once you hear the favor,” the man returned. His face grew serious. “It’s about my daughter.”
“What about her?” Bryce asked somewhat confused.
“I want you to adopt her.”
“Adopt her? But why?” Bryce stared at the man incredulously.
“I’m dying of cancer. She has no other family. She will have no one. You know what that means for her.”
Bryce thought for a few moments before speaking. “I don’t know if I can pull it off,” he said truthfully. “But I’ll give it my all,” he promised. “Anything for my little hero,” he said, rubbing the child’s short dark hair. You have my word.”
The father smiled. “It’s all I need, brother, for I am certain God will be with you.”
It took Bryce Williams three years to jump through all of the hoops necessary to adopt the child responsible for saving his life. Eventually, however, he did just that. She returned to America where she grew up to become well-known physician. She traveled the world with Doctors without Borders. It was her way of honoring her two fathers.