Major Leticia A. Saunders
Jan. 2, 1962-Dec. 14, 2009
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret … (Psalm 37:3-7)
Salvation Army officers, family and friends gathered at Pasadena Tabernacle Corps on December 29, 2009, to celebrate the life of Major Leticia Adams Saunders—to remember her compassion for souls, her commitment to the Army, and her caring ministry for the disenfranchised of the world.
Following a prelude by the Pasadena Tabernacle Band and Songsters, Major Edward Hill, Hawaii and Pacific Islands divisional commander, opened the service, stating: “Major Leticia Saunders has been posted to another station.” These words recalled the official designation of Royal Air Force flyers who did not return from action during WWII. “In the Army,” Hill said, “we also believe that a life does not end with physical death. We use the term ‘promoted to glory’ to identify that ‘other station’ in the full awareness of the continuing relationship we have with the individual assigned to another ‘post.’”
Several people offered tributes, each revealing the quality of Leticia’s life. First, her brother, Alex, described his sister as a “real fighter—feisty, a very strong woman, right through to the end.” He expressed gratitude to the Army she had met at age 13 through the Girl Guard program. This allowed her to fulfill her desire to work for God. Additionally, he thanked the Saunders family for their love and care.
Major Laura Sullivan spoke of the personal friendship she and Leticia enjoyed.
Over a five-month period as Leticia’s health worsened, her husband, Major Brian Saunders, wrote a number of reports for her family and friends. At the service he noted that the hymn “It is Well” was her favorite song and affirmed in the present tense, “It is well with her soul.”
“Her steadfast fight,” Saunders said, “revealed an ever deepening faith in which, especially in the last days, she demonstrated who she was—her strength of character and her courage.”
Before slipping into unconsciousness, she called Brian and their 14-year-old son, Holden, to her hospital bed and announced that she “had met with God,” and that he had told her it was time to come home. In her final words she gave them specific directions. She directed Holden to, “Take care of Dad,” and to Brian she said: “See our son into manhood.”
With a voice reflecting his feelings, Saunders said: “Then she turned her head on the pillow and smiled as if being welcomed by her heavenly Father. How much like Jesus she was—standing firm in her faith.”
Colonel William Harfoot, territorial chief secretary, spoke on behalf of her fellow officers and territorial leadership. “Leticia was an exemplary and effective officer. She has moved through the Army’s ranks with dispatch, but only God can promote to glory. In conjunction with her promotion to major she shared her mission and purpose for life as an officer with specific references—to WAKE UP people to their potential in Christ so they can live up to their calling; to TAKE UP one’s cross and accept adversity; and to MAKE UP by bearing graciously with one another.”
Harfoot continued: “When she began her service with us as a candidate for officership she wrote: ‘I want my life to count for something.’ Today her leaders say to her, ‘Servant of God, well done. Farewell our friend and fellow mission worker. Thank you for your witness, your service, and for the joy of serving by your side. We will see you someday on the other side.’”
Lt. Colonel Doug O’Brien read Psalm 37:3-7 that calls people to trust in the Lord, to delight in the Lord, and to commit their way to the Lord.
Songs, specially selected by Leticia, were sprinkled through the service. Hill led “Joyful, Joyful” and Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien led the assembly in “Be Thou My Vision.”
Holden had created a photo gallery of family pictures with a recording by the Tabernacle songsters singing “It is Well”—his title for the presentation. It revealed the years of a family that cared deeply for one another, bonded and supported by love.
Lt. Colonel Dave Hudson’s message revealed his great admiration and respect for Leticia. He spoke of the dimensions of her courage, the way she embraced a challenge, her acceptance of the truism that “it’s okay not to be okay.”
“Her first priority was to God—whatever the cost. She was strongly committed and her faith sustained her—an essential part of her life,” Hudson said.
“She did not perceive herself as a rock in the storm of life. God was the rock, and she stood firm on it—always protected as God took the buffeting of life for her. She is well. She is home.
“Her second priority was to her family. Perhaps due to her mother’s tragic death, or her constant health challenges, she had the ability to live in the moment. She prepared her family for this day. Their relationship is a model to us all.
“Her third priority was the Army. She bought into the mission completely. She never turned back, no matter what the cost, and firmly believed that she was called ‘to live, to love, and to save the lost.’”
The service concluded with CSM Sharon Docter leading the congregation in the benediction, “The Lord bless you and keep you.”