It is hard to believe that it has been 9 (11 now) years since Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company rolled through the dusty streets of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003. Eleven of Jessica’s fellow soldiers were killed that morning, five were captured and a dozen more injured. Lynch was critically injured, and made the news. At the end of the day eighteen fellow Marines perished and dozens others were wounded. Certainly hundreds of Marines were irrecoverably changed forever.
Most Americans would probably not remember this day and many have probably forgotten already but when the young lady’s name above comes up, we are easily reminded. As many of you know, my tank and platoon was involved in the so-called “dramatic rescue operation” of Jessica Lynch after a week of long days, long nights, a lot of losses around us and to top it off ice cold rain and mud which added to the melodrama of the time. Though our entire company escaped unscathed I cannot help but think we were all in some way changed and impressed upon by the regret that we may have been able to do more, save more, avoid deaths etc, if only we had done something different, were in a different place at a different time, or simply had tanks and equipment that weren’t hanger queens (Marine talk for something that is needing repairs more often than it is actually functioning).
I will probably never go a year without reflecting on this deployment and that nasty little armpit of Iraq we called The Nas…But as the years go by, and by God’s grace, I have found that it is and was all part of God’s greater plan. I have came to realize that as God has allowed this time of my life to become more of a memory instead of the identifying factor that made me who I am, that is my time as a Marine who happened to go to Iraq, I have been able to understand biblically that there are instances where diagnosis of PTSD, Depression, and other post-deployment issues that traumatize people really have a great way of diagnosing one’s spiritual maturity and health of their faith. Scripture is silent to these specific diseases, certainly there was no psychiatrist in Galilee. Even so, the Bible has story upon story of people suffering, wondering, possessed by unshakable demons and burdens that only Christ can liberate them from. I pray that God truly uses me to help someone someday who is overcome by guilt, regret or anger over life’s experiences and how they seem to play through their mind over and over all of the would have, could have, or should have scenarios and rest in the fact there is a great relief, a glorious hope in one biblical and existential fact. Scripture has outlined a perfect plan and approach to replace these burdens with joy and hope, by the very author himself. The author of life and the scripture from which I speak of is sovereign, just, holy, merciful and gracious Father who seeks to redeem his creation for His glory and will use even these circumstances in forgettable places by forgettable people to accomplish His plan.
Now many of us are fathers and husbands, with many of us in new careers and some are growing older in The Corps. We have lost some since we returned home and some have seen their battles were only beginning on this side of the Atlantic. I know everyone of us remembers the boredom, the drenching cold rain, the stink of Sumer cigarettes and the weird accents of the locals saying “thank you Mr. Bush” and “Cigar? Pepsi?” We struggle to remember, if only vaguely, what life was like before we crossed through the breach in Iraq.
Will we ever really move on? Will we ever be able to release the burden we carry of the lives of our brothers that didn’t make it back?
In a sense, we never will. I know I won’t. That is the very essence of the term “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”
But I pray that we realize that we must.
May we rest our weary hearts knowing it is not our burden, but It was God’s plan. To Him be glory and honor and power forever. Amen.