Larry and Jean Elliott were good people.
They had spent the past 25 years of their life doing missionary work in Honduras, mostly providing clean water sources for local villages. They were humanitarian workers first, and good Baptists second. They were always cordial and polite, and you couldn't meet a nicer pair of grandparents in the world.
When I first heard that the Elliotts had been killed in Iraq, I was somewhat shocked, but only slightly so. The telltale violence that continues to ebb and flow in the security-ravaged country has been well-documented, and they were really just "onesies and twosies", to use an American military term for isolated target killings of foreigners. But what upset me was that they were there trying to help, doing the things I would never have the bravery or fortitude to go about doing. They were going to set up another one of Larry's by now routine water purification systems when they were ambushed and killed by gunmen.
The Elliotts' daughter Gina is my optometrist; her husband Chu is my dad's business partner. (They also left behind three adorable grandchildren.) I had only met the Elliotts once, at a small function for the office, and they immediately showed more interest in me than was really necessary. They seemed so charming and down to earth - a lot of missionaries have this almost self-delusory ego of righteousness about them - and I was very surprised to hear about their adventures in Honduras, where they had endured two hurricanes and numerous earthquakes to provide water to over 100 villages and cities in the area.
And now they're just one more statistic in the ever-growing quagmire of Iraq. I hope that maybe they didn't die in vain, that this will only energize more people to go and help the people in Iraq who need it most, but somehow I doubt it. Somehow I think this unconscionable violence will continue on into the ages, long after me and mine. But I'm really only writing this unplanned eulogy to remind you all that the Elliotts really were on a single mission: to help others. Sometimes it's all you can do.