There was never any question Jeff McLochlin would make it home safely from Afghanistan. After all, he said so himself — in a home video that was shot the day his Indiana National Guard unit shipped out.
"I love you guys. I'll be back before ytou know it," he says in the video.
The letters the 45-year-old small-town policeman sent home to his wife and kids were just as optimistic, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.
"And then it says here, 'I love you, and remember, you'll be stuck with me the rest of your life, when i get back," Nicholle McLochlin reads from the letter.
But on July 5, just three months before he was due back, the former Army Ranger was shot and killed in an ambush deep in the Afghan mountains.
Gen. Douglas McArthur once said old soldiers don't die, they just fade way. But that's not true anymore. More soldiers between the ages of 30 and 50 have died in Afghanistan and Iraq than soldiers 20 and under. That's largely because today's volunteer military relies on National Guard and Reserve units to cover troop shortages — and that puts more mature men and women in harm's way.
"With Jeff being older, he's got a wife, children. He's made lifelong friends — friends throughout the community," says Joe Deisch, who was McLochlin's patrol partner for seven years in the Plymouth police department. "Jeff was a good friend, not just a partner."
McLochlin leaves behind Nicholle plus two sons, 16-year-old Darby and 9-year-old Conner, and 5-year-old daughter Kennedy.
Nichole says Kennedy "had a prayer she said she him every night that said 'Jesus, please send the angels to protect my daddy.' And she wondered why didn't they protect him. What do you say?"
It's a painful ordeal that's playing out in communities around the country — because today, more than ever, it's not just about soldiers going off to war, it's about what and who they leave behind.