Will be posting at a different site where I can remain anonymous while I’m overseas. If you want the new address, I’d be happy to provide. Just email me.
His book The Cross of Christ was one of the most eye-opening, transforming books I (and the world) have ever read. Helped bring the importance and the centrality of the cross into my life: that our sin makes God angry and that only God can satisfy God’s justice. Thus in the cross, God is the answer to God’s demand.
During this time of persistent prayer and uncertainty of what the future holds, I remembered the words of Paul Tripp:
“Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.”
May I be refined and made into the likeness of Christ. May the fabric of my thoughts and desires be altered. May all this sharpen me, enabling me to be a more useful tool in his redemptive hands.
To be honest, yes I burst out laughing when my friend showed me the Rebecca Black video. The lyrics were so horrible that I kept asking over and over again, “Is this some children sing-a-long song??”.
But I have to ask… why does Rebecca Black get ridiculed for autotuning the days of the week and having awful lyrics, but when the Black Eyed Peas do it (I’ve Got A Feeling), they make millions? Friday is a terrible song, but so are other pop songs… seriously, what the heck do the lyrics Boom Boom Pow even mean??
People shouldn’t be making fun of this girl… they need to be going after that old guy rapper/producer in the music video who actually encouraged this song.
(Yes, I’m posting about Rebecca Black and not Japan or Libya… wanted a light topic for a change)
Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.
Alfred Whitney Griswold
President of Yale University, 1959
I came across this quote today and found it interesting in light of the threat by a Florida pastor to burn the Koran some months ago. It’s unfortunate that the gut reaction of some American Christians (or perhaps, pseudo-Christians) to anti-American and anti-Christian insults from the Muslim world is to react in kind.
While my initial concerns with this plan involved the safety of my Marines who are leaving soon for Afghanistan and my former pastor who continues to labor in Muslim areas of Asia (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and China), my greater concerns are for the souls of men and women, boys and girls, who would be spiritually damaged by such an act of aggression. Not many people have ever been won to Christ by insulting them from a distance, especially with that which they hold so dear. And besides, far more important than our safety and national security, are the souls of those cut off from Christ.
As followers of Jesus, we have a book that contains not only the best ideas but one that reflects the very heart of God. Rather than trying to destroy some other book, we need to get back to ministering to the poor and needy like Jesus did and spread God’s Word to every people, tongue, tribe, and nation. The Gospel is “God’s power for salvation” after all (Ro 1:16). I think that qualifies for what Griswold calls a “better idea”.
I wasn’t supposed to be here today. On Monday, I was supposed to have left Maryland with my battalion to begin the final stages of our deployment to Afghanistan. But then, three weeks ago, I was taken off the roster.
When I hung up the phone, my mother jumped up and down while hugging me. That evening, my father literally shouted “woohoo!” and ran over to give me a hug. I can’t remember the last time I hugged my father. Everyone around me exclaims “Awesome” or “Nice!” and high-fives me as though I was to be congratulated. Friends close to me wink and joke that this was the ultimate flake. I smile, sometimes even managing a weak laugh, and agree that I’m glad to be staying.
But I don’t think I am.
I am thankful that God, in his infinite grace, has allowed me another year here. I am thankful to have family and friends who love me so much that they cry out for joy when they hear the news. But honestly, I think being thankful is all I can manage because the truth is that I am both upset and scared of staying behind. Scared mostly.
Those who have witnessed death firsthand never want to see it again. Too many horrible intangibles lie within those moments for anyone to want to live it again: The terrible helplessness of crouching at the bottom of a staircase, watching as two friends tumble back down in a bloody heap because there was a machine gun at the top. The raw fear that comes when ordered to storm a house even though you have just seen the previous team get blasted away because the front door they just kicked open was rigged. The sheer terror that turns your legs into jelly as you sprint across an open road to get to your friend who was just cut down by a machine gun. The silent anger that you know can never be let out and yet swells into every fiber of your body and comes out in the form of tears as you watch your friend being driven away, lying lifeless on a stretcher, covered by a poncho.
So no, I won’t miss any of that. It’s the fact that my Marines, the men whom I love, will be there and I won’t be there to lead them.
Last time, I was a mere gunner. I stood in the turret with a machine gun when in the guntruck and carried a rifle when on foot. I kicked in the door when told to kick it in and took a nap whenever I could. I wasn’t in charge of anyone. I didn’t make any decisions except those that concerned me. I wasn’t a leader of Marines then.
But in the years since, I’ve been promoted up the ranks and given Marines to command. Now I control the lives of 42 Marines. To the law schools I’m currently applying to, that’s a nice little title and blurb on my resume. But to us of the warrior caste, being a leader of Marines means so much more. Not only does victory or failure rest on my shoulders, but so do the lives of 42 awfully young Marines. One is 18. Some have children. Many have girlfriends. All have parents. That means I am not simply responsible to my Marines to make the best, well-informed decisions for their lives and well-being… but also to their children, wives, girlfriends, and parents.
But now, I’m staying behind.
While that may relieve all my family and friends here, it upsets me to know that I won’t be there to lead my Marines. I have been training them up to this point, caring for them, mentoring them, grooming them to become both steeled warriors and humble diplomats, and to know when to be which. In my Marines, you would find no better friend to have and no worse enemy to face.
But I am also scared… scared because I won’t be there to lead my Marines. Someone else is taking my place. I am already lying awake at night, wondering if that person will do his utmost to make the best decisions possible… wondering if that person will learn to love my Marines as his own… wondering if that person knows his tactics as well as I do.
I get scared of little things, like what if this person doesn’t remember to be the last one to eat so that he ensures that all of his Marines get something to eat. Or what if this person is a lazy leader and doesn’t wake up before and go to sleep after his Marines.
I get scared of more serious things, like what if he takes the platoon down the same road twice in a week and leads them straight into an ambush. I get scared that he might not realize that the saying “PFC up front!” doesn’t always apply because that 20 year old PFC might not have enough experience to notice that IED before he steps on it. I get scared that he might not know that fear can petrify a man and that only leading by example — leading the attack from the front — can move someone who is literally frozen with fear. I get scared that he might turn into a bumbling idiot after seeing a Marine with both legs blown off and be unable to properly call for a MEDEVAC in order to save his life.
At least if I were there, I know that I would give my best all the time though it might not be perfect. My Marines would know that I would always be in the front, leading by example. My Marines would know that I don’t eat until they’ve eaten and don’t sleep until they’ve slept. My Marines would know that I can still stay clear-headed during the chaos of combat. My Marines would know that any plan risking their lives would be a hard decision for me every time. And because they know I love them as a leader, my Marines would be able to trust me and therefore give their best.
But no. I will be here, checking the latest DoD casualties every night, scared that something has happened to my Marines, and lamenting that had I just been there, things might have turned out differently: If only I had been there to lead him, that 20 year old Marine would get to come back and finish college because I called for an airstrike instead of sending his fireteam in. If only I had been there to lead him, that 24 year old Marine would get to come back to see his fiancee with both his legs intact because I decided to send my platoon down this road instead of that one. But at the end of the night, when I am exhausted from all the What If‘s running through my head, I find that I can only trust God and the Marine Corps to have trained my replacement to be a better leader of Marines than I.
I have learned, from both mentors and personal experiences, that to lead people means to love them — love them fiercely so that every risk you place them in is decided with the utmost gravity. So while I am upset at staying behind and scared for my Marines, I pray that my replacement quickly learns that important lesson and loves those 42 better than I.
*Edit: While these are my honest fears, this is nothing personal against my replacement, who is actually a friend and a Marine whom I trust. I think these feelings are just natural if the men you’ve trained and loved for months are suddenly given to someone else. You can never trust someone else completely.
I recently came across a fantastic Facebook page called “Silkies“, which is entirely dedicated to the classic, slightly homo-erotic loincloth they issue you in boot camp. And I saw this photo on there.
I love this photo. Why do I love it, you ask? Because regulation thumpers and the other garrison POGs of the Marine Corps would freak out knowing that these 0341 Marines were out here not in their proper PPE laying waste to enemies in Afghanistan.* Yet at the end of the day, they are the ones who either destroyed the enemy or saved someone’s life with their immediate actions.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand about some Marines, it’s that they think regulation supersedes practicality. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in the real world, and that isn’t the case in combat. These people (i.e., POGs*) generally haven’t been in a situation where the poop hits the fan and you don’t have the time nor means to follow regulations.
The Marine Corps has been perverted and mutated in the minds of these particular people who believe Marine Corps orders and regulations are the key to life. The Corps that needs to exist is one of real life practicality, adaptability, and common sense. So I salute you, 0341s, in your silkies. Not for your long luscious legs, but for your ability to just say “F it. This is more important right now.”
This is what the Marine Corps should be about.
*POG: Person Other than a Grunt”. Pronounced “pogue”, these guys are the non-infantry type of Marine who sit behind a computer while deployed, actually working a 9-5 shift, never leaving their huge, protected base, and hence never knowing the chaos and danger that an infantry Marine (a grunt) does. Thus, they has the luxury to abide by the grooming and uniform regulations of the Marine Corps. Most grunts could care less about haircuts and tucking in their shirts when they’re running on four hours of sleep and being shot at.