December 13, 2011

Tonight I heard some terrible news: a guy from my church who was serving with the Marines in Afghanistan was injured by a roadside IED. He lost both legs and a hand. He may not survive. I know this guy personally. We attended church together for years. When I heard the news, I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me.

Right now, many of my friends on Facebook are circulating the story, asking for prayers for his recovery. They're saying nice things about him, like how he was a nice guy and a hero. I should probably be doing the same. But I can't. I certainly hope he can recover, or maybe find peace in death if that would be better for him. But I can't, in good conscience, say things I don't mean.

Certainly, with my husband serving in the military, I consider this man to be a brother in arms, and I respect his service and sacrifice greatly. But I never thought he was a nice guy. He's not someone I would normally look up to as a personal hero.

On a personal level, we couldn't be more different. I remember when we attended the same college cell group at church. At one of these meetings, we had an outdoor party where we played volleyball and other games. This guy (we'll call him Chris) was all over the place. He took the games far too seriously, getting angry and berating people when he thought others weren't playing their hardest. When we didn't keep score, he got frustrated and stormed off. He was also vain, always showing off his muscles, his car, and his gorgeous girlfriend of the week. Having to put up with him was highly irritating to me.

He also had a bit of a run-in with my brother a few years ago and more recently poked fun at my sister-in-law for marrying him. To be perfectly honest, Chris could be a real jerk to the people he didn't care about. He did try hard at times to be a good Christian, which I respect. But I never had a positive impression of him. I wish I could admit this openly to my friends, but I don't think it would be appreciated right now.

In truth, this is my grieving process. What happened to Chris is unimaginably horrible. No matter my personal feelings about him, he did not deserve to be injured or lose nearly half his body. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Not on anyone. It kills me to think that this young man who was once so athletic and passionate about sports will probably never walk again--if he even survives the next 48 hours. The news report said he also sustained injuries to his pelvis. That means he may never father children or even be able to have sex again. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. Having a husband and family is the greatest joy of my life.  I can't imagine the pain of someone missing out on that opportunity.

I hate this war. I hate it with every fiber of my being. I hate what it's doing to my generation and my country. I hate that it turns healthy young men into paraplegics. I hate that it takes parents away from their children. I seethe every time I read another story of a young woman losing her husband or lover to this conflict. It needs to end now. Don't preach to me about military objectives or democracy in the Middle East. Don't talk about terrorism and the need for national security. No security is worth this price. There are other ways. We need to find them.

This is my message: Not everyone serving in the military is a wonderful, likable person. Some service members are jerks. Some are racists. Some are alcoholics, gamblers, misogynists and cold-hearted cynics. Not everyone in the military joined out of patriotism. Some of them would get out of the service tomorrow if they could. But what they sacrifice on the battlefield is still just as real and as painful as the noble ones who are in it for all the right reasons. In that way, Chris IS a hero and worthy of all the appreciation his country can bestow upon him. I just wish our country didn't make heroes in this manner.