This post was removed for a while to make someone happy, even though it had been approved for publishing here. So, I’m putting it back. Enjoy.
Every weekend in September my chaplain and I travel from our compound to another to provide religious support and to participate in a ceremony honoring the fallen of our NATO forces. For more on the ceremony, see my blog entry titled “The Ceremony.” Every trip comes with some element of danger. Some of our trips have even been canceled. Most of the trips we made were in armored NTVs (non-tactical vehicles). One week we walked to our destination for a trip that lasted only a couple of hours. We were only on the roads for about 5 minutes, but it was quite an adventure to walk the streets, to see the people and the traffic up close. Turns out, we weren’t supposed to walk, at least not those of us in my unit. But that’s a whole other point of grief I won’t get into here.
On this particular weekend we were all geared up, ready to walk. We were wearing our protective gear, including a protective vest, helmet, gloves, etc. I had my M9 and my M16. I was ready for the adventure. At the last minute we found out that our walk was canceled and began scrambling to find a ride. We did, our drive team came through like the professionals they are.
Early Sunday morning we are setting up for chapel service. The Navy Captain that plays piano for the services asked me to go to the gate of the compound and escort his Afghan National Army friend to the service. So I set out on my mission. I made my way through the compound to the gate. I went out to where I thought I was supposed to meet him but instead found myself on the street, outside the compound, without my gear. I had only my M9 with me, and nothing in the chamber. I looked around to see a few locals walking the street. There was almost no vehicular traffic. I walked toward the entry checkpoint down the way from where I exited. I wasn’t afraid and never felt threatened being outside the compound. But it was a very surreal feeling.
I found the gentleman I was looking for. He was dressed in his uniform talking to another Afghan Soldier who was also waiting for an escort to get into the compound. He had a genuine smile and was very happy to see me. I greeted him in his native tongue and he returned the greeting in English, shook my hand, then embraced me. I led him through the gates and checkpoints and then to the chapel. We talked about his training he had been to in the States and where I was from back home. He spoke very good English.
As it turns out he is a Christian, something that puts his life in jeopardy here (hence, I will not use his name or rank). As I sat there during the service, I pondered all this. Here is a man who not only is willing to risk his life to make his country a better place, but also to risk everything in his life to go to church and fellowship with other Christians. This moved me.
They say we, as American Soldiers, risk our lives everyday by being here. I know this to be true when I attend the ceremonies and see the names of the fallen. But I have never felt threatened or in danger since I’ve been here, not on any of the missions I’ve gone on, not even when we walked in the streets. (This changed as we started traveling all around Afghanistan). Maybe that’s my American culture of taking things for granted or maybe I’m just old enough to know that we can’t live forever anyway. Whatever the job at hand, we are willing to do it not matter the cost. But in thinking about all this, I am humbled and ashamed that I take so much for granted. It’s easy to do what I do with all the cumbersome protective gear I have to wear. There is some safety in it. There are no repercussions for me going to church or being a Christian. But this Afghan Soldier, to do what he did, to go to church, to be a Christian here, is far more risky than anything I have ever done. His reward will be great.
So I ask you this question as I close: What are you willing to die for? More importantly: What are willing to live for. Dying is the easy part. Can you handle living for what you believe?
Good day and God bless.