That Hideous Strength

Not many people get to see the Hulk smash through walls.  However, it happened on my base in Afghanistan, on one of those days I'll never forget.

I was sitting down in the chapel, a plywood "B-Hut" with a worship space, an office for me, an office for my assistant, and my sleep quarters.  We used the chapel for more than just Sunday services.  Apart from my regular counseling, we used it for movie night, sports event viewings, making videos for troops to send home to their kids, and, my favorite, cigar night.  Everyone knew where the chapel was, so while I made morning and evening rounds on the days I was there, people always found me in the chapel while I worked on service preparation or staff work.

PEW-BOOM!!!!! The all-too familiar sound of an incoming and impacting round generated my typical dive onto the floor (of course, it's too late by then, but you don't think, you just act).  After a minute or two, I threw on my helmet and vest and dashed outside to run up to the command post so I could find out where it landed.  I never got there - the round had hit the staff barracks directly across from the command post, about 30 yards from the chapel.  The wall and doorway was a disaster - in the few moments before I had arrived, one of our officers, nicknamed "Bear" had smashed down the remaining interior and exterior structure in his way, just like Hulk, to pull out one of his fellow officers who was wounded by the blast.  He was a dust and debris monster, with bloody knuckles.  Another officer, who was walking outside the staff barracks when the rocket hit, was also seriously wounded.

I ran down to the aid station and moved to my spot at the head of the more visibly seriously wounded of my friends.  I will never forget what looked like a hook from a huge shower curtain protruding from his back, like he was a fish that had been hooked through the gills.  Both men were in pain and shock, and the medical team scrambled to address their wounds.  I talked to my friend with pretty standard platitudes - "it's gonna be ok"; "you'll be back with us in no time", as well as the jokes that a man needs at a time like this: "at least you've still got your family jewels!"  I kept my hand on his head or neck as the team worked, talking in a controlled tone, while occasionally handing the medical team supplies that were near me.

We strapped my friends down and evacuated them on a Blackhawk helicopter.  Neither of them returned to our combat zone - one was eventually returned to duty back at our home station, the other's rehab took much longer than we realized it would.  Good men, doing their best, hurt and humbled, while I sat in a plywood box, unprotected, but safe from that particular attack.

Why them, and not me?  Why wasn't I lying there with chunks of wood, brick, and metal protruding from my body?  I wasn't doing anything particularly holy at the time, and I certainly wasn't a better person than either of those men. Why does God allow men with evil intent to kill or wound those who are just trying to help those around them?  Did my faith have room for these questions?

I'm thankful it did - because I knew what I believed, why I believed it, and where that faith came from.  With some questions we have to be content with no answer.  For the rest, we must strive to get those answers right, because life will demand it.

So, I was able to be a friend, a leader, a confidant, a comforter, and someone who bore the burdens of those who surrounded me.  Because they saw that I was real, and I didn't pretend to have all the answers, they knew I could be trusted, and to this day still reach out to me.  No man deserves the honor and privilege of the time and trust these men gave me - so I must thank God for this "Blessing" of war and what it has given me.