Religion: PART I “Higher Purpose”

We have discussed it a few times in the JollyRoger, and you have heard comments on Mike’s radio show as well.  Talking about religion, and about when we stopped believing in God.  Talking about when we began thinking; “How could he let this happen?” or “Why wasn’t it me, instead of my buddy?”

The war didn’t change things that much for me.  The really religious stuff has always been a little too deep for me.

Whenever I have lost a friend in combat, I have somewhat been able to connect a purpose to it.  As a Soldier, you recognize and accept the chance that you may die.   When someone dies in combat, I want to honor their loss.  I want to try to give their death some type of meaning or purpose.   I always start thinking about how careless it would seem to deploy a unit, have Soldiers lose their lives, and then return without accomplishing anything.  The meaning or purpose really seems to be a sticking point at least for my own sanity.

In another respect, I always find unexpected non-combat deaths of my friends more difficult to accept.   I have difficulty connecting a purpose to an 18-30 year old committing suicide, being killed by a drunk driver or some other type of car accident, or having heart failure in their sleep.   It is too random and unexpected, and there is no larger purpose to associate this with.

Losing friends in combat is still not something that I feel comfortable reasoning and overlooking though.   Out of the thousands of deployed Soldiers, Why does one Soldier get killed over another?   Out of two Soldiers standing next to each other, Why does one Soldier get killed over another?   Is the insurgent’s cause more important than the Soldier’s that day?   You will always be stuck thinking and wondering things like:  “How could God let this happen?”  “Why wasn’t it me, instead of my buddy?” “Could I have done something differently?”

If there are no atheists in a foxhole, I was not too much different.  I did not become reborn, but I felt that he looked out for me.  We had some bad luck, but I think he played a roll in keeping it from being worse.  I think God should have been a little more irritated with me personally.   I had a bobble-head Jesus doll that I kept in my truck on missions.   Is this Blasphemy?  The Bobble head was a half joke, half lucky charm.   The joke was a jab at the fanatics who were trying to kill us every day.   It is really sad how easy someone can twist people’s minds into believing that they are fighting for religion, or into thinking that they were waging jihad against infidels, and fighting American religious crusaders.

What about all of the other random, shitty things that happen to us in life?  Is there a purpose?  Is this part of his plan?  After my first marriage, I took a small bit of relief and comfort from the bible passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.   At the time I was thinking that if he could bear to lose his son, then I could bear to lose my spouse.

Religion: PART II “A young Bobble Head”

When I was young, my parents weren’t church going people.  Sometime towards the end of grade school I asked my parents if I could go to church.  My sister and I began going to a Baptist church in our town with a friend’s family.  My sister and I were different ages, so we were in different Sunday school groups.  The first day we were went to this church; my sister was “saved.”  It was kind of odd to me at the time.  How could my younger sister get saved and not me?  The next three Sundays, my sister was saved again and again and again…We went to this church for a few months, but I soon became even more lost.  I knew many of the common bibles stories, but I still had a lot of questions.  After learning about Noah and the ark, I asked why there were different races of people.  As I remember it, the Sunday school teacher gave a pretty poor answer.   My mother was upset at the church and the pastor came in the next week to give a retraction to the class.

We soon began to attend a Christian fellowship church.  It was fine for awhile as well.  Finally one day they told me that I was too old for Sunday school; so off I went to big people church, all by myself.   The next thing I know, I am watching people line up in the aisle to have the pastor touch their heads with oil.   Many of these people started dancing, speaking in tongues, and even passing out.  The pastor said that the hand of god was on the church and I sunk deeper into the pew staring at the ceiling and the people passing out…So, that was the end of that one too.

Since then God and I have a very casual relationship.  More or less; he looks after me and I don’t know why.  I try to be good for the most part and live a good life.  I don’t go to church and I don’t ask him for anything in return.  I have never exactly been a non-believer as much as an unidentified.   I believe in God, but don’t believe in everything they say about him.   I guess I spent more time in history class than I did in church.   There must be some type of a higher power.  Reason only demands that it would just be too random to think that we all ended up here by accident.   On the other hand I think that history is full of men, who rewrote the bible for their own interests.

Then there is my biggest dilemma, why are there so many different denominations?  What is the difference?  Who believes what?  Where did it come from?  What about these supposed lost books of the bible?  I wish I knew what the original words Jesus spoke to the apostles were.   Until then, I will still be…in search of.

Religion: PART III “Rolling the Dice”

How many times have you measured your life in inches or seconds?   Is this God’s will or just luck?

An insurgent’s poorly timed IED.  A bullet striking just inches from your head.  An RPG punching through a fuel tanker but not detonating.  Seeing the unit ahead of you, or behind you get hit instead of you.  Choosing to take a different route one day, or choosing not to eat in the chow hall.  Random choices making the difference between living or dying.

My first mission…The land owner turned us back as soon as we rolled out the gate.   The other half of our platoon caught someone digging an IED emplacement.  We asked to roll out the back gate, and another convoy got out ahead of us.  That convoy got hit and took casualties.  We got lucky and someone else got hit.  We turned back again and waited another night.

As we to return to the FOB our wrecker broke down, and I was able to replace the vehicle rather than have it go down on mission.  When we rolled out the next night, my HMMWV broke down.  We hooked my truck up to be towed and reconsolidated into other trucks.  We left a team at the maintenance point, to pick up on the return leg. At this point I was riding in a vehicle that was more armored than my original vehicle.  As we continued our mission, my first two trucks took small arms fire.   I was scanning for their contact, when my vehicle was struck by an IED.   I can not say that I would have been screwed in my original HMMWV, but the ASV was better protected. We made it out of that engagement ok.  That whole series of incidents, I can’t help but to start questioning it and wondering how things could have happened differently.

Twice we were struck by EFP’s that did not function properly.  The insurgents had either used an explosive compound that was not military grade, packed too much explosive into the device, or a combination of both.   This caused the EFP to explode rather than properly form the lethal projectile.  The explosion sent small pieces of molten copper or lead into the trucks.  The second time, a piece the size of a nickel penetrated one of our turrets, striking our gunner in his side sapi-plate.  An even smaller piece of the lead projectile then broke off and entered his side.  I would have expected punctured lungs and several other damaged organs, but somehow this small piece went through his lat muscle and travelled along under the skin of his back, before stopping near his spine.   He is still recovering from these injuries, but I am just amazed at how much luck and inches can mean between life and death.

When my Commander’s truck got hit, there were two charges that penetrated the armor.   On almost every other day the medic would ride in the backseat of the Commander’s truck.   On this day the driver of another vehicle was on R&R leave and the medic had taken his place.   That random chance meant his life.    The Commander himself being of small stature received a glancing blow, breaking his collarbone instead of something more fatal.

There was another day that our second squad experienced another close call.   Many times the explosive devices are armed by a remote control as they see the American convoy approaching.  The device is then detonated by a sensor.   The only other vehicle on that road was a taxi that had stopped to unload passengers.   The insurgent armed the device to strike second squad, but the taxi pulled out again detonating the explosion.    The passengers in the taxi were killed, but that random chance saved second squad.

Many times I felt that the enemy would choose to hit another unit rather than us, because our gunners always maintained an aggressive security posture.   Early in the deployment, we had a betting pool as we passed other convoys while travelling through southern Iraq.   We were betting on the total number or tactical errors we would identify the other unit committing; gunners standing too high in the turret, gunners without their hands on their weapons, gunners even sitting in the back seat instead of in the turret, gunners who would not rotate their turrets and flag us with their weapons, placing vehicles in the front or rear positions that had tactical limitations or liabilities in those positions, I once saw a gunner in his physical training uniform.   Even in Baghdad I saw many units driving down the center of the road (ducks in a row), or riding around with turrets locked in place and weapons pointing straight up in the air.   This sends a message that you are an easy target.

Religion: PART IV “A Father’s Grief”

I already mentioned God’s purpose behind some of those random shitty things that happen in your life.  I recently had something happen to me that further shifted my position on the fence.

Last fall my wife and I went to a doctor’s appointment where we were told that our unborn daughter had a genetic condition.  We were told that the best case scenario would be that if she held on long enough to be born, she would likely not make live more than a few hours.  The car ride home was pretty silent.   Inside I felt lost and confused.   Something started brewing inside like a Hurricane, fierce swirling emotions:  Confusion, Anger, Grief, Fury, Sadness, Disbelief, Loss, and Helplessness.  Too many things for you to even grasp or get hold of.   After awhile it was difficult to keep driving.  I told my wife that I needed to pull over, get some air and a soda.   I could not have pulled into the 7-eleven at a worse time.  As I unbuckle my seat belt and open my door, I see another pregnant woman.   This lady is smoking a cigarette and yanking a screaming 3 yr old by the arm.  How is this fair?  How could this be God’s will?   Did that woman deserve her baby more than my wife?

There are a number of things that I can bear to happen to me; I am just that kind of person.   I can not bear to see things like this happen to my wife.  She is too sweet and genuine of a person to deserve something like this to happen to her.  There are things that other people will do or say, that just stab you deeper.   The appropriate thing to say to someone is; “I am sorry for your loss.” or “I am here if you need anything.”  Do not ever say something like; “You can have another one.”  “At least the baby won’t be born handicapped.” or “IT WAS GOD’S WILL.”  My answer to those types of comments is “Fuck that and Fuck you!”

During this very difficult time I was again able to find one (very small) bit of “spiritual” comfort.   I did not find it in a bible passage though.  Sometime between our doctor’s appointment and the loss of our daughter, my wife was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.   It was an outdoor ceremony on an overcast day, with a professional photographer.   In a picture of my wife walking to the chapel, the sun is shining through the clouds.   The shape of the clouds and sun strikingly resemble an angel looking down at my wife.   It is still not enough to make up for not having anything to hold on to or remember.


So for now I feel like putting Bobble Head up on a shelf.

“I’m pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don’t help me now. I say Fuck you, Jobu, I do it myself.”


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