Our nation’s highest award given to a civilian, The Medal of Freedom, was awarded today to Dr. Tom Little, posthumously. Tom was martyred in Afghanistan in August. His widow, Libby Little, accepted the honor on Tom’s behalf today in a ceremony at the White House.
Libby spoke to the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town this past October, just three months after Tom was killed – it was her first time to speak publicly after Tom’s death.
She used Tom’s blood stained notes from his final sermon as the substance of her remarks, urging Christians to “go spread the aroma of Christ in hard places.”
We praise God for the impact of Tom’s remarkable life and for the way it has been honored today by President Obama.
Here is the story from the New York Daily News following Tom’s death
New York optometrist, Tom Little, 62, one of six American aid workers killed in Afghanistan
Tom Little, a 62-year-old optometrist from Delmar, NY was one of six Americans shot to death in Afghanistan this week.
In the remote rural villages of Afghanistan, the big-hearted New Yorker was known simply as Mr. Tom.
For more than three decades, opthamologist Tom Little made his home and did his work in the war-torn nation, raising three daughters while treating thousands of needy patients each year.
Little, who survived the 1979 war with the Russians and exile by the Taliban in 2001, was shot to death while heading home after a humanitarian mission in northern Afghanistan.
Little, 62, typically traveled with his wife, Libby, who was likely spared by her decision to stay at their upstate residence in Delmar, N.Y. Friends and supporters of the couple’s efforts were devastated.
“He was well-known and deeply loved,” said Lawrence Roff, senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady.
The second-generation eye doctor had long moved easily through his adopted nation, learning the local language and customs while developing a needed knack for tact and diplomacy.
“I never saw Tom lose his cool,” said David Evans of the Loudonville Community Church. “He was a remarkable man.”
Evans joined Little on a 5,231-mile trip to bring Land Rovers from England to Kabul six years ago – typical of the late doctor’s determination.
Little was familiar with the dangers of Afghanistan. In a 2004 interview, he recounted family picnics that ended with attempted Taliban kidnappings.
The threats never deterred Little from his work with the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation, bringing eye care to millions of Afghans.
He oversaw three 40-bed hospitals in three large cities, and three 10-bed facilities in smaller outposts.
In 2003, NOOR operations treated 234,570 patients and performed more than 14,000 surgeries.