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Televised baptism gives comfort to parents of slain soldier

COMFORT, Texas (BP)–The parents of a dead American soldier are taking comfort knowing their son accepted Christ and was baptized days before he was killed.

Army Spc. James Kiehl, 22, was one of the soldiers found dead during the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch. He had been listed as missing in action since their convoy, part of the 507th Maintenance Company based in Fort Bliss, Texas, was ambushed.

For days his parents in the small town of Comfort, Texas, had hoped their son would come home alive. Upon word of his death, they were reassured knowing he had been saved before going off to battle. Kiehl’s baptism was videotaped by a television crew and broadcast on a Texas TV station.

“It has been a tremendous help to them — that James had made a decision for Christ and followed Him with baptism,” said Jim Holt, pastor of Comfort Baptist Church, where the Kiehls attend.

The news has lifted the spirits of the entire church, Holt said. While preaching March 30, the pastor alluded to the stories of soldiers who were accepting Christ “and how thrilling it was that men and women out serving their country were also making decisions about serving Christ.”

At the time, Holt did not know that James Kiehl — who was then listed as missing in action — was one of those soldiers. After the sermon, Kiehl’s parents, Randy and Jane Kiehl, told Holt the good news.

“I let some members of my church know that, and of course the whole church was excited,” Holt told Baptist Press.

The videotape was a welcome tonic to a video Randy Kiehl had seen days earlier. A Middle East television station had broadcast footage of dead American soldiers, and Randy Kiehl had found the footage on the Internet. He thought he saw his son’s body.

“I cannot overstate how important it has been to this family to have that video of their son being baptized, and how that can replace in their minds the image of their son’s body,” Holt said.

Kiehl had dreamed of being in the Army since he was a young boy. In middle school and high school, he befriended one of Comfort Baptist’s deacons who is retired from the military. The deacon would visit the school, and Kiehl would follow him around, Holt said.

“He said, ‘James treated me like a hero because I had served in the Army.’ James was doing what he wanted to do,” Holt said. “All through school he could not wait to get out of school and join the Army.”

Kiehl’s wife, Jill, is pregnant with their first child, according to WHO-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, where her parents live. He was a member of the high school’s marching band and basketball team. He was also tall — 6-foot-8, the television station reported.

“He was a quiet boy and very private,” Holt told Baptist Press.

Kiehl had given Jill two teddy bears before he was deployed, USA Today reported. One was for her, the other for their unborn son. He also gave her a recorder with a message from him so that their son could hear his voice, the newspaper said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: A LASTING MOMENT.

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  • Michael Foust