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Mother of A Soldier


Yesterday evening I received this picture from my son. He is a senior at Texas A&M and in the Corps of Cadets. If all goes as planned he will be commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. Just last week he received his branch assignment, Combat Engineers. He is thrilled.

As I think about this, it is only fitting that I received this picture on Veteran’s Day. November 11 was initially the day we commemorated the end of World War I—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. However, contrary to the hopes of the time, World War I was not the war to end all wars. In the decades that followed, thousands of men and women have stepped up to serve in the United States military. November 11 is now a day to honor all of them.

Back in July I wrote this post about the growing gap between those who serve in the military and those who do not. I sent this post to Rochelle Reed, editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune, who wrote of her disappointment when her son chose to join the Army. She responded with a cordial note that asked in all sincerity how I could reconcile my life of faith with service in the military. I sent her this response:

Every time a human being is killed it represents tragic human failure. The United States military does not seek out opportunities to kill. Rather, the military is a defensive body. The members of the military swear an oath to uphold and defend the ideals and principles of the American Constitution even to the point of giving their own lives. No one detests the horrors of war and seeks peace more than soldiers.

It is interesting that you should ask how a soldier can reconcile military service with the Commandment not to kill. I just spent last evening with Fr. Michael Duesterhaus. He is a Catholic priest and a Marine Chaplain. He has already done two tours in Iraq and will leave for a third tour in June. His work has taken him to the outermost reaches of Iraq. He fully supports and affirms the military mission in Iraq. He sees great value in the work done by our military there. He sees no contradiction in military service and the service of God.

I believe the reason for this is that the mission of the military in Iraq is to defend the freedom and dignity of every Iraqi citizen as this nation establishes itself as a democracy. When enemies of this mission try to undermine it with deadly violence, a military response with deadly force may be required. As I said above, every time a human being is killed it represents a tragic human failure. However, it is not always the failure of our military. If a policeman kills a criminal who is threatening to murder his hostages, it is not necessarily the failure of the policeman. I feel the same way about the use of military force. It should never be used wantonly. Every effort must be made to settle disputes via peaceful means. The use of military force represents a diplomatic failure.

The military does not decide when diplomacy has succeeded or failed. That is the job of statesmen. Notice I said statesmen, not politicians. Politicians have partisan agendas to increase their own power. Statesmen have no agenda other than to seek the greater good for their nation. I do believe we have far too many politicians in both political parties and not enough statesmen. When the military is told the nation needs the force the military can bring to bear, the soldier responds bravely. There is no joy in killing. There is no place for vengeance. The military should never be used to settle a score.

Has every decision to use military force been correct? No. Has every military member behaved with the integrity and honor expected of a soldier? No. Just as there are teachers, clergy, journalists, and politicians who betray the ideals of their profession, there are soldiers who do not live up to legacy of honor of the United States military.

I do hope you are proud of your son. It reflects very well on the job you have done as a parent that he will so generously serve a cause much greater than himself. I am sorry others have not communicated this to you. I hope that both you and your son are able to see that members of the military are not blood-thirsty war mongers. Rather they are honorable men and women seeking to do what is right for our country so that our democratic principles are preserved for future generations.

Comments

Well said. Thank you to your son for willingly and courageously wanting to serve and protect our country in such a way!
Anonymous said…
Please thank your son for his anticipated service to our Republic. I will keep him in my prayers.
Jim said…
Dr. Hunnell, I hope you can forgive me for asking a question that is entirely unrelated to your blog topic. That said, I'm asking, in large part because you are one of the smartest Catholics I know.

As I am sure you are aware, it was announced today that The Holy Father will be celebrating Mass in Yankee Stadium on Sunday, April 20, 2008. My question is how can I possibly obtain two tickets for this Mass?

Thanks so much for any help that you can offer. My apologies to your other readers.
Stina said…
Thank you for putting this into words so well. I will keep this "within reach" to use when needed as I could never express this idea as well as you have.
Ebeth said…
Wow, one at Rice and the other at A&M!! A&M is my husband's alma mater! Aggieland home of the 12th man. I miss TX and the Houston food!

Congrat on a wonderful son. Let him know that we start our school day with a prayer to all the military, for peace, unflinching courage, and faith.
Anonymous said…
A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night." "It's my duty to stand
at
the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Denise said…
Well said!

Did she respond at all to your response? I've been asked before how my husband can enjoy being a warrior (or various questions on the theme..). People fail to remember that it is a call to serve, a sense of duty, not a desire to harm or kill others. I try to to explain this, to let them know that the military member is the LAST ONE that wants to go to war, but they don't always get it.

Thanks for sharing such a well written piece that says the same thing, albeit much more eloquently than I could ;-)
Julie D. said…
Well said indeed! And I love the photo! :-)
Anonymous said…
My Oldest Son is a ROTC cadet and Junior at Rochester Institute of Technology. I have served, my father and my grandfather as well. I find what you have to say very well said. These young men are the hope of the future of our country. They take their place in the long green line that has and does defends us from evil.

God bless your son, may St Michael watch over him.
Rosemary Bogdan said…
Great post. Congratulations on your raising of a fine son and thank you for his service to our country. May God always go with him.
God bless him for serving and God bless you for your support.
Jennifer F. said…
God bless your son and his service to our country.

And how neat that he's an A&M! My dad was in the Corps there and that whole side of the family is all Aggies, so that's near and dear to my heart.

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