Humbled through warfare

"Humbled through warfare" Continued...

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

Q: You describe U.S. civilian leaders as having "fantasyland plans of stock market exchanges before bothering to turn on the lights." What allowed you (and others) to see U.S. weaknesses in 2004 that the Bush administration didn't address until 2006-07 and that in many ways continue?

We saw the garbage that didn't get picked up, the lights that didn't turn on, the water that didn't run, and the police who didn't show up to work. We saw life as it was actually experienced by Ramadi's citizens, not the mini-America that was the Green Zone [U.S. headquarters in Baghdad]. Quite simply, we lived among the people. We saw the truth from the ground. And we couldn't simply believe only what we wanted to believe, because the daily events wouldn't let us.

Q: Why did you institute platoon-wide prayer of Psalm 23 before each live mission? How did the men respond?

I believed that it worked, that God listened regardless of His response; and I thought that prayer would be our own private pre-battle ritual, one that helped establish our unit identity as Joker One.

My men loved the prayer. In fact, before one mission I was so busy that I forgot to lead the prayer, and I was rushing around in between trucks when I heard a soft murmuring coming from three separate vehicles. It was my three different squads, each praying the prayer softly to themselves. It was at that moment that I realized that my platoon had truly come together.

Q: How long had you been without serious injury or death when your second-in-command Todd Bolding was hit by an RPG? What did it do to Joker One?

We hadn't had a serious injury or death for roughly 3.5 months. Bolding's injury devastated us, but we were back out on patrol the very next day. After something as gruesome as traumatic amputation, you have to get back into the saddle nearly immediately, or you risk never being able to get back there again. . . . I went into what was probably a two-week depression. I didn't want to leave my bed; I didn't want to leave my room; and I certainly didn't want to go out on missions. But I went anyway, even if I wasn't all that useful, because my Marines were going out every single day.

Q: You say at one point "faith and hope had left me, and I despaired." How was that resolved?

The horrors of war did not diminish my view of God or the saving power of Jesus Christ. They simply illustrated more clearly the limits of my own human understanding. Before war, I had the illusion that nearly all of life's events-both the good and the tragic-could somehow be understood and explained. I even demanded it of God. After war, I began to realize just how limited my own ability and understanding truly were. I now have a much better understanding of why God answered Job the way that He did ("Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"). I have chosen a world with God, which to me means a world of hope, ultimate meaning, and ultimate purpose, over a world without God in which our lives have no ultimate reason for being. If I have to accept that there are some horrors and tragedies that I will never fully understand on this earth, then so be it. That is an acceptable, and reasonable, tradeoff to make for a world that has a just and loving God. And I'm more willing to make it now that I've been humbled through warfare.

Q: Do you commemorate Memorial Day differently now that you've served in two wars? What will you do this Memorial Day?

Honestly, I treat every day differently now that I've served in two wars. I view each day as a gift, not an obligation, and I thank God for each one that I have. This Memorial Day I will pray for the fallen and their families, some of whom I know. I will take a step back from my life and thank God for all of the good things He has given me: my family, my health, my friends. I will take a few moments to reflect on the tremendous responsibility I have to live the one life I have well, for there are so many others who would love a life but who no longer have it.


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