Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Is it worth it?

I leave here (soon). I wonder: is it worth it? It the war worth the sacrifice? The sacrifice entails not just those killed in action, but also those who were wounded, as well as the time away from home, the years lost with kids, the marriages broken up (marriage counseling is my primary form of counseling over here) and the overall effects of stress. One chaplain I know believes that one year over here takes 4 years off of a person's overall lifespan. I'm not sure I agree with that, but the point he's making is that the overall stress levels can't be good for a person.

So.... is it worth it?

I believe it is. I can't explain it, but it is.

The war we're seeing over here is different than what you all see at home. The reality is that most Americans do not realize we are at war, except from daily news clips- always negative. There is no food or gas rationing, no draft, no attacks on the homeland (since 11 September 2001) and nothing that would indicate a nation at war.

Maybe that's part of the reason for the strong anti-war sentiment. Too few people making too large of a sacrifice on behalf of too many people who don't remember we're at war.

The point? The point is that the Iraq war is a relatively small war in comparison to previous wars, if you compare any of the following criteria: the casualties; the number of Soldiers actually fighting; the cost, financially, when adjusted for inflation; and most of all, the effect on day to day life.

So, we have a relatively small war, being fought by a handful of professional Soldiers, who are making uncounted sacrifices (since we won't know the long term effects for years) for a war that most Americans think is stupid.

Is it worth it? I still think so. I get frustrated, as do ALL Soldiers. I have given up 14 months of my life away. My youngest son was finishing pre-school when I left, and now he will be starting 1st grade. I will never have that year+ back again. I have seen horrific things, had mortars and rockets blow up around me over and over again. I have traveled around Baghdad by helicopter, humvee and tank. There was an adjustment period before I left, and there will be an adjustment period when I return. All told, this deployment affected almost 2 years of my life.

But I would do it again. Have I enjoyed all of it? Definitely not. Do I think Iraq will become a paradise and beacon of democracy? No, probably not.

I would do it again, though, because it's the right thing to do. I believe this war has been fought with the right intentions. We started wrong (didn't go in with enough Soldiers). But we're making a difference. Things are getting better, slowly but surely. We need to stop thinking about winning or losing. We should worry less about our national pride and more about the long term ramifications of leaving or staying.

We won the war. I.e., we invaded Iraq, toppled Saddam, and enforced the inspections. We established the roots of a democracy. We could leave and say we won.

We're struggling now to succeed with the nation building aspect. By "we" I include the Iraqis of course. The US, Britain, Australia, Denmark, South Korea, Japan, Macedonia, Georgia (the nation), Slovenia and a bunch of other nations are invested in trying to bring a functioning and free society together.

It may or may not work out. But the sacrifice is worth the possible benefits.

In a similar way, God has allowed the possibility of sin in our world because the possibility of love is worth it. Humans have the capacity to love and to hate, and sometimes we choose hate. God could end all sin by removing our free will. But this would remove the possibility of love. You cannot truly love if you have no free will.

By trying to help the Iraqis stand up a free nation, we are betting on freedom. It might not work. But I think it's worth a try. I would do it over again.


Anonymous Scott said...

Thank you for your service, and I feel a deep sense of kinship with you as I am a former Army Chaplain.

However, I could not disagree with you more. This has not been a just war nor has it been worth it. It's true that most Americans don't see the small pockets of good you and the troops are doing in you area of operation. They are, in fact, seeing a much broader part of the picture (the country as a whole) that you are not seeing. I would also disagree with you on the the coverage by the US media (CNN, Fox, etc). It is very pro-american and nationalist.

You are doing what you feel God has called you to do. Your soldiers are doing the same. The fact is that this war was launched to rid Iraq of WMD's. They didn't have them. I won't go into much deeper analysis of foreign policy/historical events at this time. We can talk more on this if you like.

The point at the end of the day is that the reason there is no exit is becuase it was a sin to invade. It has been aggresion on our part, and it has set diplomatic relations back perhaps 100 years - maybe more.

You're right in saying that America is not at war. Sadly, this President has asked no sacrifice of the American people to fight 'their' war. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve better - many are now caught up in what seems like endless deployment rotations.

I had to reach my own conclusions, and I decided to leave the Chaplain Corps.

To answer your question, No it was not worth it. There's a difference between national defense and creating and maintaining empire so that suburbanites (with no children serving in the military) can fill up their SUV's, drink their morning coffee and watch Fox News and be assured that 'God is on our side.' I beleive in fact that He is indeed not.

However, you are one of the few people that can bring the love of God into the midst of the hell of war.

Just ask yourself this question: Which side of the collar feels heavier - the cross or the Captain bars?

I pray for your safe return.


9:39 PM  

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