Thursday, August 02, 2007

From my friend: a soldier in Iraq

One of my closest high school friends recently sent this from the front lines in Iraq to his community back home. I post it here to give you a taste of what he, a soldier, is feeling - not to convince you of anything. I'm not sure I agree with everything here, but it is sure worth reading. Most importantly, as you read this, pray for Iraq.
"On desensitization
It’s a combination of language barrier, cultural differences, and lack of purpose. When you spend a year driving down the center of the road, busting down doors, laying in ambush, shooting it out, and pretty much going wherever you want, you get a sense of power that can be dangerous. The only law over us in this country is our own military system. We don’t follow traffic signs or directions, we don’t submit to police or Iraqi Army (although we work with them often), we enforce curfews, we decide if anyone gets paid for damages done, we stop cars, we search whatever we want. So the average soldier gets this idea that he is superior to the average Iraqi. That, added to the fact that other Iraqis are trying to kill him every day, that the average civilian will do nothing to support him, and that they are mostly unhygienic and uneducated, leads the soldier to believe that they’re below him and not worth fighting for anyway. The whole “building the future together” line invented by generals and colonels doesn’t sink in at his level. If the purpose of it all is that vague, it’s very difficult to put it into practice when you’re getting shot at and blown up on a regular basis. The challenge I faced was how to make my soldiers care, and at times, how to make myself care. I have a respect for life and a compassionate heart, so it tugs at me to see the pain in the families here, some of it that we cause. Even when the man of the family is an IED cell leader, when we take him a way, it still hurts to see his 4 year old son crying after him or hear the women all wailing. And sometimes (with the aid of an interpreter) I’ll lay into him and tell him he’s a disgrace to his family, that he ruined their lives, and he’s a shameful Muslim and human as well as a cowardly dog. (all that translates pretty well) But the man is usually the sole supporter of the family over here, so it’s the family that suffers. Most soldiers will say, “well he shouldn’t have been making IEDs.” And they’re right of course, but there’s a lot they miss.

As Lieutenants and platoon leaders, we were all pretty motivated to get over here and into the thick of it. The joke was, when ever one of us got angry or overly excited, we were experiencing Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Well, now that we’re over here and all experienced some pretty heavy stuff, we’re certainly more experienced, but we can also still joke about it. Of course, we’re still here, so who knows. PTSD often shows up after soldiers have been back in the States for a while, hence the name. But I really think the effects are determined by the type of person. Some people will be 200 meters from a mortar strike that killed someone they didn’t know, and they’ll be scarred by it for life. Another guy will clean up the remains of two squad members and suffer no real ill effects. Being a Christian certainly helps, knowing the body is just a shell. I’ve seen it, it’s different substance altogether when the spirit leaves. At the same time, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to avert my eyes, to not let images get ingrained, to not focus on the detail, but just get the job done. All this to say, I think I’m doing alright. We still laugh at each other when we jolt at any little thing that goes bang, but we also laugh at each other, or at least at the situation, when bullets are snapping overhead. I think it’s the outrageous concept that someone is actually trying to kill me.

On the Sovereignty of God
During leave with family in Kenya, we had a few discussions on the Sovereignty of God and how it relates to prayer. What good is prayer for the safety of a soldier that God has decided to call home? Plenty good, but the answer is still “no”. And here’s the best I can do right now: plenty good for me because the prayer beforehand is a plea for the life of a friend. But it’s also a reminder of the love of God and the plan He has. And perfect love casts out fear. And driving out the gate, into the lion’s mouth, without fear, is an awesome thing. When men see their leader unafraid, it emboldens them as well. Every time I plead to God for my friends, I’m reminded of His love. So what is there to fear? Prayer, I think, is intended to do more good for the one who’s praying than the one who’s being prayed for. So keep praying for me, it will do you some good.

On Blackhawk rides at night
The stars are pretty amazing here already, but through night vision it’s unbelievable. Flying low and hard, four Blackhawks in a tight staggered right. Door gunner yells 2 minutes out. 1 minute. Target building in sight. Flare, then touch down and it’s off the bird, lasers on, guns set, and the assault element is over the wall. Flash bang through the window, door breach, building clear under 2 minutes. Lock it down, bring in the guns, Apaches overhead, F-15s above them ready for the word. Search, question, ziptie. You’re ours now, let’s go see your neighbor. Birds inbound in trail 5 mikes. Secure PZ, buzzsaw out, identify. Door gunners, no friendlies to the south. Touchdown, load, liftoff, under 30 seconds. Home again, home again, jigiddy jig.

Thanks for listening. I'd appreciate your thoughts on any of it as well."
ar TORONTO, CANADA | 2023+



27 Sat (1) 11am Commencement speaker at R. University, (2) ~3pm+ time w/ V/AR+
29 Mon (1) 9:30am VT prayer, (2) 3pm mtg DerCh - Mississauga
30 Tue (1) 10am ph call (AA), (2) 5:30pm video mtg (IsTan), (3) 8pm neighbourhood prayer mtg

1 Thu (1) 11:30am Zoom mtg (LM), (2) 4pm mtg (VS,KBr)
2 Fri (1) 10:30am ph call (PVDW; SL w/ boys; ~J working)
3 Sat SL w/ boys and MG
5 Mon (1) 9:30am VT prayer mtg, (2) 2pm Europe call, (3) 5pm mtg/walk (YM)
6 Tue (1) 11:30am lunch (GD) - St. Jacobs, (2) 4pm mtg (AF) - Cambridge, (3) 7:30pm worship night
9 Fri ~J's b'day
10 Sat North Bay trip
13 Tue 11am mtg (DAy) (~J school trip w/ ~Co | text BD)
14 Wed 9:30am time w/ BD
15 Thu 4:30pm video mtg (Paul T.)
16 Fri (1) 9am video med appt, (2) 15-km run (Prayer Journey "warm-up")
17 Sat Prayer Journey (my own: 50km GTA bike-ride; Jessie's: 5KM) and speaking at GTA after-party
23-25 Fri-Sat poss. SL
26 Mon 2pm Europe monthly call
29 ... July 7 Thu-Fri poss. holiday in Arkansas

... 7 Thu-Fri poss. holiday in Arkansas
~8-17 SA+ in Toronto; P/H Bell likely visiting too
15 Sat aft+ baptism (Saj; NaB may be coming)
17-21 Mon-Fri Kids Kapers camp
24 Mon 2:45pm med. appt
26 Wed (1) 11am video mtg (SM), (2) 3pm Zoom mtg (SMa,SB), (3) 7pm ~J speaking at Greenhouse/Zoe - UofT downtown
27 Thu 10am video MVT board mtg
31 Mon 3:05pm med. appt
July/Aug CCWM board mtg / AGM

2 Wed 11am video mtg (SM+)
6-12 Sun-Fri Cottage w/ O/DN+ and UB/AC - Windermere; plus Muskoka
19 Sat poss. ~J fam beach day - Brighton area
25-29 Fri-Tue MoveIn staff retreat - southern Ontario

Sep 21 Thu - MVT board mtg
Sep 23 Sat poss. date of GV memorial
Sep 24 Sun ~Ch's b'day
Sep ~26-28 Poss. time in Lushnjë, Albania
Sep 29 - Oct 6 MoveIn Europe Conference+ - Durrës, Albania
Oct 21 Sat poss./unlikely date of GV memorial
Oct 21-27 Dollar-a-Day week
Early Nov Poss. fundraising event - Niagara
Nov-Jan Poss. time in India - Goa; Philippines - Manila+; Indonesia - Jakarta/Bali; LA/San Diego