"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

A Soldier’s Mind

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The primary reason I’m so upset about this last week has far more to do with my own inability to do something to forward the mission (force protection of the CF). So I pray, but I’m dreaming of getting into some intelligence analysis so I could put some of those God-given gifts to work.  If I’ve come across as offensive, forgive me, as I’m really conducting this as a public but personal argument about what is taking place internally.

I’m also acutely aware that my words in the last two posts probably won’t be received well by anyone who has not been a soldier. As much as I’ve tried (for the last eight remembrance services, and a score of talks to community groups in the past ten years) there is still a wide gap between us in terms of understanding what things we take for granted. We speak almost entirely different languages. My dear wife understands, but that’s because she’s been through much of that with me.

It is hard to describe the change that comes over you when you realize you have already pulled the trigger on one life, or in some cases 470 lives. That’s why Christ gives us such strong teaching about the avoidance of violence, because it is always a burden on the soul (even when you know the action was righteous).

Here’s a thought experiment as an aside: you’re a fighter pilot flying a training CAP on Sept 11.  You’re a 2-ship both with hot gun and 2×4 loaded because you’re the duty alert aircraft.  You get a call from NORAD to tell you there are two passenger jets inbound on the World Trade Centre, and they have been detected well outside the city limits.  You are in a position where you can down both aircraft over farmland.  Your choice (along with your wingman): trade two wide-body jets, say 400 souls under terrorist control, for two buildings plus 3,000 souls.  You have a good radar lock, all the numbers look good.  Do you take trigger?  If you don’t the human cost is 3,400 + 2 buildings.  If you do, 400 die.  Wow.  Whatever you may think about soldiers, those are the types of actions that the nation asks us to take on behalf of the country.  (oh, and refusing to shoot will land you in prison for failure to follow a lawful order)

I didn’t realize this great gap until I had a new co-worker join my day job who had been through much the same path that I had. He started mentioning things in passing, things that only he and I understood…and when we understood them it was perfect comprehension.

This all to say that maybe the only place I would feel settled is back in that environment, surrounded by the people that speak that language, and carry the same weight on their souls. Another friend, who just retired after a long and lettered career, has moved into a radically different business – finance. He tells me all the executives in the company are retired military, and it’s like he never left his day job.  Then again, maybe I’m supposed to be out of my element.

So, my outrage is probably only comprehensible to someone who has hoisted pack and rifle. I have found some comfort in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Ethics. He suggests that the important thing for the Christian in ambiguous situation is action, rather than deciding to do nothing (or little) in the hopes of staying holy. It is in action that the Christian lives out their ministry, and in God’s grace they receive forgiveness when they err in that ministry.

I think Bonhoeffer would have understood my outrage perfectly.


Written by sameo416

October 25, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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