Joni B. Hannigan, Managing Editor

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Soldier killed with Bible nearby

SEBRING, Fla. (BP)--The thought of her son's Bible fluttering in the wind beside his still body in Iraq brought a certain comfort to Marcus Mathes' mother after he was killed in a mortar attack April 28.       "It was just comfort because I knew he was on a mission and the Word was there at his fingertips," Sue Sawyer told the Florida Baptist Witness.       A member of First Baptist Church of Lake Josephine, where Mathes also was a member and was baptized as a youngster, Sawyer said she believes her son was faithfully following what he thought was the right thing to do by volunteering to serve in the military.       "I thought, '... [H]ow far he's come,' and if it had not been for the Army he wouldn't have been there spiritually, which is what tells me this was God's plan," Sawyer said.       Mathes, 26, an equipment truck driver with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Polk, La., reportedly died alongside a friend, Sgt. Mark Stone, 22, of Buchanan Dam, Texas, when they were standing by their trucks preparing for a mission in Baghdad.       Family members were told Marcus' Bible was found next to his body.       Married to Julia Ehrman Mathes since 2002, the young soldier and his high school sweetheart had become closer in the past few years, Sawyer said, after he began reading his Bible more earnestly -– and Julia began reading a copy of Stormie O'Martian's "The Power of a Praying Wife."