Trying to find answers while carrying a gun
Of course, the people he meets have learned not to trust soldiers and I imagine, if ordered to do so, the young man of the report will do things he will later regret. How many young men who were trying to find answers in life have been forced to do so while walking in hostile territory and carrying a gun?
Their eyes look at me with distrust, and resignation. And I want to get out and tell them that I'm alright.
Then I look at myself, and see myself in uniform and I see what they see.
'Another soldier in uniform'
And I guess they are not wrong in feeling what they feel. And I feel very sad at the state of affairs. I want to tell them that I am about as good or as bad as any of them, and I am not here to harm them. Beneath the uniform I am just a young man in his twenties trying to find answers in life.
But the young man is hopeful and says,
What I am saying is that I may be a soldier, but I am definitely not the enemy. In the end, there is still hope.
Walking around with a gun
I am reminded of the famed Christmas Truce of World War I in which both sides sang Christmas Carols and then met in the No Man's Land. There is still hope when we see the person who is supposed to be our enemy as a potential friend. But walking around with a gun in a war zone makes breaking down walls in that way impossible. Walk around with a gun long enough and someone will attack and then you will shoot back. It's what generations of idealistic young men with guns have had to do and will do again.
That Christmas Truce was hopeful, but it was followed by more grueling trench warfare with each side laying waste to the other. By the time we are in trenches with guns cocked and loaded seeing one another as a potential friend is long gone from the equation.
Band of Brothers
I am a man. I don't tear up at sappy movies. In fact, I almost never cry at all. But I wept while wandering through the Congressional Medal of Honor citations exhibit at Parris Island Marine Recruiting Depot. I was not the only man crying, though we tried not to notice one another. I found the Marines' acts of bravery awe inspiring. Their courage under fire inspirational.
I know that the sort of bravery that is acknowledged with a Medal of Honor is not engendered by "the good of the nation" or the "honor of the fight" or anything less lofty than the love felt for the men a solider serves alongside. In the end, that is whom the soldier really fights for. Sure the country is a great idea and the flag is inspiring, but you fight hard for the men you fight with. It's about the Band of Brothers. And that too is honorable.
The Debt We Owe
Yet what we must acknowledge is that we owe so great debt to those who fight on our behalf, that we must think long and hard before deciding that the young men (and increasingly women) need to go war at all. Because we can teach them how to shoot a person. That's the easy part. But we have a tough time teaching them to live with it.
I hope that Indian soldier in Kashmir never has to learn that lesson. The full text of the BBC News article is online at Impressions from Kashmir War Zone.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor