Leaving for Afghanistan in 9 Days
Today is January 13, 2009
Today for the most part has been very pleasant. I have become comfortable with the fact of knowing that in about a week I will be heading for a country about 7,000 miles from the home I grew up in and the people that I love. But I am still apprehensive on being there for 6-8 months.
I was born and raised to know that Jesus Christ is my personal savior. Knowing that as a soldier puts a completely different spin on things. Up until about a month ago I was scared out of my mind, not knowing what to think. I had the pleasure of meeting a Chaplain, who is serving in Savannah with the Ranger Regiment, who told us of some of his previous experiences. He was a Ranger during the time of the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident. He told us of his journey to being unafraid.
To make a long story short, he said that if we were to die as a Christian Soldier that it is a win, win situation. That if we die on the battlefield that we will be in heaven in a second, and if we don’t we get to come back home and live our lives as we had left them. This made a huge impact on me.
I was able to conquer my fear and focus on how I would be able to make a difference in the soldier’s lives who are serving on our front lines. There is an old saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole and it is the truth, many soldiers find their faith to fight in their God.
Army Chaplains are not here to force religion down the throats of the soldiers that they are assigned to. It is not mandatory for any soldier to listen to them or to accept their thoughts. The Army has a variety of faith groups in the Chaplain’s Corps. They range from Christian Chaplains, Jewish Chaplains, Muslim Chaplains, Catholic Chaplains, and Buddhist Chaplains. The Army also accepts many faith groups. The idea behind the Chaplain is to have a person who is willing to listen to a soldier’s thoughts and fears, but more importantly it is to have a person they can talk to. I felt it was important to note the other religious groups, because I have many friends who do not choose Christianity as their faith. It makes no difference to anyone here which faith you choose, because in the end we are all on the same team, the US Army!
Over the past weekend I had the chance to view “Band of Brothers,” by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. It was quite strange watching it as a soldier for the first time (I had seen it while attending High School.) Although times and uniforms have changed, very little had changed about soldiers. It was interesting watching the everyday life of Easy Company. Each man brought his own stories and history to the unit. There are farm boys to city slickers in our unit. We have every race and many nationalities that all come together to form one of the world’s toughest units. Our leaders our proven and have earned the respect of their subordinates. Each one of us gladly accepts the responsibility that we have been assigned. It is not a political war that we are fighting; there are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in the unit. It is for the freedom of an oppressed people. It is for the safety of anyone living in the area. It is so that a little boy or girl can grow up and become whatever their wildest dreams may be. Too often we miss this, living in the United States. We miss the everyday blessings of living in a place that allows us to decide on what we want to wear, and what we are able to become. The poorest of the poor in the US don’t even scratch the poverty of Afghanistan. It is our hope and dream that we would be able to grant the people living there the same opportunities that we have been given.
In the Soldier’s Creed that we live by it states that: “I am the guardian of Freedom and the American way of life.” It makes no reference that we are only to protect America’s Freedom; it carries to all people of every nation. This is what makes the United States Army different. We are willing to lay down our lives to defend the people who can’t defend themselves against their oppressor. It is a responsibility that we don’t carry lightly.
Every morning when I tie my boots I realize how truly blessed I have been for being born in the United States of America. Many soldiers like myself have an American Flag adorning their room. It is more than a symbol — to us it is a constant reminder that we are serving the people of the greatest country on Earth. It represents the task that we have assumed. I truly am proud to say that I am an American Soldier!
I hope that I haven’t offended anyone; these are only my thoughts and not the thoughts of the United States Army. I am one of a million soldiers and each of us has our own opinions and views, these are mine. I also would like to thank you for allowing me to serve you and our country.
-Lake Ray, IV