The Sunday morning worship service was a bit different Sunday.

A Farmington soldier died to make it that way.

Other than his family and friends, I wonder how many of you know his name?

Where he died?

How he died?

Why he died?

Sure, you'll enjoy a lazy start to your morning today, throw a burger on the grill a bit later, or perhaps enjoy catching up on the household chore list, or maybe go on an outing of some kind.

God willing, you'll see a flag.

A flag with stars and stripes, representing these United States of America, a country that despite all the complaints and gripes and criticisms remains the most blessed country in the world.

I'm here in this spot to remind you that the kid from Farmington who was memorialized in our church Friday is worth remembering today.

***

Last week, I returned home from a special delegation visit to Venezuela.

I ended up spending several hours with the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, who talked about how much he appreciates the United States, just not its president.

I listened to him talk about how much he loves America's favorite pastime, baseball, and how it also is Venezuela's favorite sport.

But prior to meeting Mr. Chavez, I went out into the streets and talked to other Venezuelans who have a love of America, and for them, it has nothing whatsoever to do with politics or baseball.

It has to do with freedom.

It has to do with the envy they have in knowing that people who live in the United States of America don't get told their hard-earned family business was taken over by the government today, or that their favorite community center was closed because someone said the wrong thing while in it, or that Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue must give up their farm because they didn't march in last week's protest march or that grandfather lost his engineer job to a guy who has no engineering degree but was owed a favor by someone in politics.

A few years ago I went to South Africa on assignment.

Only there did I see as much razor wire around homes as I did in Caracas, Venezuela.

The poverty was much the same.

And there, few knew what the term "equal rights" meant, because apartied had ended only a decade earlier and many signs in restaurants still told whether they allowed blacks or whites.

People literally were dying in the streets from AIDS.

India had its highs and lows, too.

I met the prime minister of India, the equivalent of our president, who quietly but proudly pointed out that India is the largest democracy in the world.

Indeed it is.

But the poverty there, the guards with machine guns in every town square, the disparity in economic conditions with high-priced car dealerships right next to brothels with women selling themselves for $1 per client ...

It became quite clear that India may be the largest democracy in the world, but not the best.

***

You've heard before; now you'll hear it again.

When someone visits these places, just like me they say, "it really makes you see just what you have and what so many people take for granted in the United States."

I'm begging you not to take it for granted today.

Memorial Day is meant to be a day set aside for the memory of all those who gave their life in service to our country.

Thousands and thousands of Americans have done so over the last 200-plus years.

More than 4,000 have in Iraq and Afghanistan just since that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked us, brought down two of our most famous landmarks and killed thousands more of our fellow Americans.

So about that kid from Farmington.

Why did he die?

He wanted to take the fight to the bad guys, not let them bring it here.

Where did he die?

Afghanistan.

How did he die?

He was killed in an explosion.

Who was he?

Casey Roberts.

Casey was 25, born May 27, 1982, in Farmington to parents Thurman and Emma Roberts.

Yes, Tuesday will be his birthday.

But today would be just as good a day as any to raise a toast to and say a prayer for Casey and all of his family in arms who have given their life for these United States and the freedoms that you and I enjoy today.

Thank you, Casey.

And God bless America.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.