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– On Friday night, people around the nation may have noticed more porch lights on in their neighborhoods than usual.
And on social media, those who weren't yet clued in might have wondered why their Facebook and Twitter feeds were suddenly featuring pictures of ordinary porch lights and candles — not normally the stuff of great interest to anyone.
But to a 6-year-old son of a fallen Fort Campbell soldier, the pictures were a light leading the way out of the darkness of a year-long night that had passed since the death of his father.
With his faith nearly snuffed out by a terrible loss, he reached out to his mother, who then reached out to a community that turned out to be larger and more caring than either had imagined.
On Wednesday last week, Darren Baysore asked his mom, Jamie, to ask people to turn on their porch lights to mark the passing of Staff Sgt. Thomas Allen Baysore Jr. of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team "Currahee," 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2013.
The request was sparked by then-5-year-old Darren's initial response to the death of the father who told him all the time, while the two of them looked up at the stars, "I love you to the moon and back."
The night Darren heard the news, he asked his mom to turn on the porch light so his dad could see it from the moon. As the one-year anniversary of his father's death approached, the little boy had the idea that if other people turned on their porch lights together, his dad would see it and know he was remembered.
So Jamie called The Leaf-Chronicle and put forward the idea, which was passed on to the local community.
Said Jamie Baysore on Saturday, "We really had no idea Darren's request would go much beyond Clarksville and Fort Campbell. I mean, we expected a response for sure, but nothing like what happened."
What happened was a nearly instantaneous understanding of a child's request, expressed without strings attached, born only of a desire for remembrance for a man who had been everything to that child.
In a day, the story was driven by military family members – primarily spouses and parents of other fallen soldiers – through the Fort Campbell community, and outward into the nation, with astonishing speed.
A Facebook page created for people to post pictures of their porchlights and their locations, called "Shining Love to Daddy Baysore" had seven "likes" on Wednesday afternoon and 8,000 the next day.
On Friday morning, NBC's "Today" show called Jamie and did a short phone interview. Hours later, the story went to another level, and on Friday night, the porch lights came on and the pictures came in – thousands of them – seemingly from everywhere, all across the nation and even from overseas. People who didn't use Facebook sent their pictures to The Leaf-Chronicle to be posted on the "Shining Love" page.
As of Saturday afternoon, they were still coming in as Jamie and Darren pored over them, marveling at the names and places and marking a map as they went.
It's a lesson in geography, and in other things as well.
'The point' for Darren
For many people, the key that turned the ignition of action was a statement from Darren's mother, Jamie, stating that the boy no longer wanted to go to church, and that she was afraid to push him for fear of pushing him away from God forever.
That the events of the next days were an exercise in faith is something Jamie doesn't want obscured, and she was upset when a major newspaper posted the story on Friday with references to God and faith removed, for whatever reason.
"Thousands upon thousands of people understood what this was about," she said by phone on Friday morning, "so why would somebody remove the point?"
To underscore "the point," she referred to her post of Thursday night on the "Shining Love" Facebook page.
She wrote, "Since my husband has been killed, Darren has not been to church but a few times because he is still upset about it and I choose as a mother to let him join on his own terms rather then forcing him and taking the chance of losing his faith forever. So with that being said, since this remembrance porch light has started and going around for the first time in about a year tonight Darren asked as I was walking out the room, 'Mommy, can we pray?' My heart melted and tears were about to come out. But I pulled it together and we prayed. As we prayed all I could do was thank God for answering my prayers and helping Darren to start finding his light again. I just needed to share this joy that I am feeling inside."
And on Friday evening, after a gathering of her husband's fellow unit members and their families at Fort Campbell's Air Assault School for a remembrance earlier that afternoon, Jamie emphasized the joy of seeing her son's faith returning.
"My son," she said, "is smiling a smile I haven't seen in a long time. Even my parents noticed immediately. My mom said he has a smile he had back when he was with his dad.
"That's the smile we've been looking for. And then for him to ask if we can pray and if we can go to church... I know a lot of people aren't religious. I understand that. All I'm saying is I want my son to have faith – in God and in humanity. I want his soul to have that spark again.
"I think people got that immediately. Everybody on my posts has been saying, 'God bless' or, 'We're praying for you.' It's one of those two things. Nationwide, worldwide, in some form or fashion, they're praying we're going to be OK. And we are."
Philip Grey, The Leaf Chronicle Contact Philip Grey, 245-0719 Military affairs reporter email@example.com Twitter: @PhilipGrey_Leaf