A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance

It always seems the men who die in combat are the ones you think least deserve it.

Shortly after we lost one man, far away from our area, we lost another in a common security mission in the middle of our valley.  As a way of keeping the enemy from attacking voting areas, supply units, or local forces, our platoons would set themselves up in known ambush areas..and wait.  On one, I was in the back seat of a truck, and we had been there a while.  I had to pee.

A Christmas at War

A Christmas at War

In 1914, on the Western Front, armed enemies had a widespread "Christmas Truce", exchanging gifts and playing games together on Christmas Day.  In the Pech River Valley in 2010, we were attacked four times on Christmas.

November had been a hard month, losing more men in the first part of that month than the entire five months prior combined.

Eternal Moments

Eternal Moments

Combat introduces elements into life that we don't find back at home, like flying bullets and explosions.  It also removes distractions that affect how we think.

Last time, I shared how very, very few people think of God in the midst of a firefight.  However, in those gaps between fights, people think.  A daily, acknowledged, consistent, life-threatening danger leads people to think about what matters, and what may matter.  Even a high-risk area like ours was really a year of boredom punctuated by regular bursts of intense activity.

Foxhole Atheists

Foxhole Atheists

You've heard the line, "There are no atheists in foxholes."  Actually, there are a lot.

Military members are a shifted sample of America.  Sure, there is diversity of home state, religion, education, skin color, and dialect.  However, it isn't a truly representative sample.  Because we have an all-volunteer military, our men and women are shifted culturally as a group.  They are more likely to be conservative, rural, religious, and married than Americans as a whole.  Military officers are shifted even further along those lines.  Within the Army, there are also differences in the roles they hold - the infantry are most likely to be white, less educated, and from America's heartland (rural and urban).  They also love what they do.

My men loved to fight.

On Killing

On Killing

How much is a child's life worth?  In Eastern Afghanistan, about $170.

Before the deployment, I talked to a number of soldiers who were concerned about being able to kill someone, even someone who was trying to kill them.  They recognized that it's not a video game.  They knew that people who were very different from them in some ways were also just like them in others.   However, when the shooting started, basically everyone shot back.  

Sex in Combat

Sex in Combat

I had never seen a "blow-up doll" before.  My infantrymen made sure that shortcoming was fixed.

Being a chaplain in an essentially all-male unit is guaranteed to put you in a tight spot.  Yes, you are officially the commander's advisor for moral and ethical issues, which isn't a problem.  It is the unofficial element, the "man of the cloth" part, that makes you a walking representative of morality.  While there are, of course, those chaplains for whom simply being a moral person is a problem, the real issue is how to balance that perception with approachability - yeah, you're the God guy, but are you a prude, too?

V is for Victory

V is for Victory

People think that the scariest thing about war is the shooting and explosions as people are trying to kill you.   Actually, that's the most exciting part.

It's hard to qualify what is "winning" in war when you are a chaplain.  I never shoot at anyone.  I never was in charge of soldiers on cordon and search missions, on guard, or the interactions with locals.