Tag Archives: Armed Forces

Thinking practically about the gospel with an illustration from a war movie

The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa
The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa

First, let’s get an overview that helps us understand the context and goals of the mission we are going to discuss.

The scene is set in Somalia, Africa, in 1992. There a civil war between two warlords: Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Farah Aidid. The war has destroyed agricultural operations, and the people are starving. The United Nations are trying to help, but Aidid hijacks the food from UN aircraft so that he can use the food to gain control of the people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are dying of starvation. The UN requests American military forces to secure the air-dropped supplies so they can be distributed to the starving people.

In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush answers the call, sending 25,000 troops to Somalia to protect the food from the Somali warlords. However, in 1993, Bill Clinton is elected. He orders that the number of U.S. troops be reduced to 12,000. Following an attack by Aidid on Pakistani peace-keepers, the U.N. issues a resolution to capture those responsible. The U.S. armed forces have the arms and training to battle evil, so they get the call to capture Aidid and his lieutenants.

In late August 1993, Task Force Ranger is deployed to Mogadishu to capture Aidid and his lieutenants at the Olympic Hotel. The U.S. force consists of 440 troops from the Army Rangers and Army Delta Force special forces, commanded by General William Garrison. Garrison requested light armored units (Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles) that would offer more protection than the unarmored HMMWV Humvees. Garrison was denied the light armor by the Clinton administration. Garrison requested heavier air support (AC-130 Spectre gunships) that would offer better fire support than the UH-60 Blackhawk miniguns. Garrison was denied the air support by the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration did not want the American forces to appear too heavily armed for the peace-keeping role.

The actual mission turned out to be much harder than it needed to be, because of the resources denied by the Clinton administration. Although the Aidid lieutenants were captured, Aidid himself escaped. Eighty-four American soldiers were wounded. Eighteen American soldiers were killed, and their bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. This was shown over and over by the media, and it undermined American resolve to help the Somali people. As a result, Clinton had the excuse he needed to retreat the American military.

(Source: Nova Online)

Two heroes lost their lives

Today, I want to talk about two of the men who lost their lives in Operation Gothic Serpent. They are Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall D. Shughart – a Delta Force sniper team.

Here is a clip from the movie Blackhawk Down, which shows what happened to them:

The pilot of the downed Blackhawk was protected by the two men who volunteered to go in after him. They requested that they be inserted at the crash site, even though they knew that reinforcements were likely not going to be there in time to save them. They made the request to go and help the pilot three times before being allowed to go in. Their first two requests were denied by their commanding officer, because the odds against their survival were so overwhelming. The rescued pilot was later released by his captors, and the two heroes were awarded the Medal of Honor for their brave actions.

A Congressional Medal of Honor
A Congressional Medal of Honor

Here is a description of the requirements to be awarded a Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that may be awarded by the United States government. It is presented by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and is conferred only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

You can read the official details of their actions.

The point of this post

It is important for Christians to be familiar with real-world examples of people giving their lives in order to save the lives of others. When we see real-world examples of self-sacrifice, it helps us to understand what Jesus really achieved for us, and what he must have felt making that hard choice to volunteer to go in and rescue us. In general, my philosophy when it comes to the Bible is to make every effort to connect what the Bible says to the real world. We must not push Christianity into some far-off world of piety and feelings. We must make connections to real evidence and real life, so that what the Bible says becomes practical, and so that we have a deep friendship with and sympathy for God revealed in Jesus Christ. In real life, being willing to give your life to save someone else is hard. Understanding how that really happens will help us to value what Jesus has done for us.

Bible verses

I saw this verse on the ground outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, where I went for my summer vacation in 2015.

Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Here is the picture I took (yes, that is my running shoe):

“Here am I, send me” Isaiah 6:8

When confronted with an opportunity to imitate Christ in his self-sacrifice, we should think less about ourselves and our own desires, and take the opportunity to serve others effectively. We do not do what makes us happy, and we do not pursue fun and thrills. We do what heals, we do what helps others. We do not push away our responsibility to imitate Christ by caring for those in danger. Christianity is not just about “not doing bad things”. It’s the good things you do because of your relationship with Jesus that show your real allegiance, and give you the experience of being a Christian in deed.

And here is another good verse:

John 15:13:

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

If you get a chance to watch the movie Blackhawk Down, then do so. I highly recommend it. You can also read the book that the movie is based on.

I love the Medal of Honor books by Edward F. Murphy. He writes about all the people who have been awarded the Medal of honor in different wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

If you check my reading list, you’ll find that I usually read two military books for every one book on another subject.

Dennis Prager: the feminization of America harms the whole world

A while back, I wrote a post that I really enjoyed writing about the movie High Noon. In it, I talked about the conflict between Marshal Will Kane and his new wife. He wanted to stay and protect his home town against outlaws who are coming to kill him and raze the town. His new wife cannot understand why he has to stand and fight, she wants him to run away with her. In the end, she helps him to defeat the outlaws, saving his life.

That post was inspired by something I heard Dennis Prager talking about on his radio show. He was talking about a survey of boys and girls done by the toy company Mattel. Well, I wanted to blog about his comments, so I ended up writing the High Noon post. But then Dina found an article about the Mattel survey on National Review. I think this is one of the wisest and most perceptive articles I have ever read, and it will really help you to understand what has happened in the last 50 years to this country.

Prager writes:

Last week the New York Times published an article, “Sweeping Away Gender-Specific Toys and Labels,” that contained three sentences that explain one of the most important phenomena in American life. In discussing the increasing move to do away with gender-specific toys — something the New York Times approves of — the article quoted Tania Missad, the “director of global consumer insights” at one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, Mattel:

Mattel’s research showed some differences in what girls and boys wanted in their action figures, Ms. Missad said. “For boys it’s very much about telling a story of the good guy killing the villain. . . . [Girls] would tell us: ‘Why does the good girl have to kill the villain? Can’t they be friends in the end?’”

Prager comments on the part in red:

This difference may be the most important of all the sex differences. Indeed, it can actually shape the future of America and of the world.

[…]When women get married, they are often influenced by their husbands with regard to political and moral issues, just as married men are influenced by their wives on a whole host of micro issues. As a result, married women are more likely than single women to prefer to fight villains than to befriend them. Unfortunately, more and more American women are single.

Meanwhile American boys are increasingly raised by single women and taught almost only by female teachers. In addition, they are often taught to be ashamed of their masculine natures and to reject traditional masculine virtues.

As a result of the above two trends, the amount spent on national defense will continue to decline (while the amount spent on welfare will continue to increase), and America will confront the world’s evils less and less. The consequences will be disastrous for millions of people around the globe.

When America retreats from killing bad guys, bad guys kill more innocent people.

We’re seeing this now in Biden’s retreat from Afghanistan, and his weakness with Russia and China. He’s the candidate of anti-masculine voters. He doesn’t believe in good and evil.

More:

Whenever I see on a car the liberal bumper sticker “War Is Not the Answer,” I look to see who is driving. In years of looking, I have seen one male driver.

Both women and men have flawed natures. They share human nature, which is deeply flawed, and the sexes have their own particular natures, which are also flawed. That is one reason men need women and women need men. Men need women to soften their intrinsic aggressive nature and to help them control their predatory sexuality; and women need men to, among other things, better understand that evil people and regimes must be fought, not nurtured.

So, there is something in male nature that thinks that it is acceptable to use violence as a last resort in order to defeat evil. Evil might be things like criminals, terrorists… even wolves and bears, if they attacked innocent people.

So what are the solutions?

Here’s what we should do:

  • We should stop paying women money to have children before they are married, so that boys have fathers to raise them who have made a commitment before they got handed free sex.
  • We should rollback no-fault divorce, which leads to fatherless children. People should be less emotional about who they marry, and not think “there’s an escape hatch if I feel unhappy”.
  • We should try to get more male teachers into classrooms, and maybe allow parents to pull boys out of failing schools and put them into all-male schools if they think those work better.
  • We should try to vote for policies that empower law enforcement, national security, and our armed forces to detect, attack and defeat evil. For example, we invest in defense spending, and avoid undermining the morale of police and armed forces with political correctness.

I guess the list could be longer, but that’s a start for the issues that Prager raised.

We need to work against the forces that demean male nature and male roles, and work to promote male nature and male roles.

Three reasons why Christians should read military history

Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator
Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator

I recently finished a book called “Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front”. It’s about a World War 2 heavy bomber pilot who completes 35 missions, and then goes into the Soviet Union (our allies, at the time) to rescue American POWs who were starving or being kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

I found a very good article about it from Stripes, to just quickly introduce the story:

Later, after making contact with POWs roaming the Polish countryside, [Capt. Robert Trimble] fully embraced his mission. He saw the desperate plight of those who had been liberated from Third Reich prison camps. Many were sick, emaciated, often clothed in rags and left to fend for themselves during a brutally harsh winter.

Trimble risked his life numerous times over six weeks, helping to rescue hundreds of POWs. He came to the aid of others, too. In one daring rescue, nearly foiled by Russian agents who had become suspicious of his activities, Trimble helped 400 French women make it out of Poland and back to France.

Although he was being constantly trailed by Russian spies and informers, he would evade them, and bring food and money to the POWs, then put them on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, where they could get onto a ship going home.

Why I read military history

It is hard to develop virtues just by wishing and hoping. Something has to go into your mind that causes you to think differently, and feel differently. Everything that you watch on TV, hear on the radio, or see in the movie theater, is made by secular leftists. They aren’t trying to build your moral character. They’re goal is to break down your resistance to their unBiblical worldview and moral values. Instead of giving people who hate Jesus your money, just so you can be entertained, why not try to put something in front of your eyes that will make you better?

Look at this famous passage from the Bible.

Romans 12:1-2:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And also this from Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible.

Philippians 4:8:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

So you can see that when I am reading, my goal is to work on my character. I want to have feelings about things that are appropriate for a Christian man.

So why military history? Here are three reasons why I read these military history books.

Humility

First, humility. Humility used to be one of my biggest challenges. So I thought to myself “instead of seeing yourself as some heroic figure, why don’t you read about some real heroes… people who willingly gave their lives for their friends, like the Bible urges, and like Jesus did by example”.

Remember this from John 15:13?

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Military history is filled with stories of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice, endurance, unselfishness, and many other virtues. When you read about people who are better than you, doing more important things than what you’re doing, it really helps you to be humble.

The best thing for humility is reading Medal of Honor citations. You can find a bunch of them online here. And if you want a book to read, try these books about Medal of Honor recipients:

Endurance

Second, endurance. I sometimes feel badly about not having found someone to marry and not having lots of children. I wanted a good marriage to be a model for others, and also to have an influence in the next generation through my children. However, whenever I read military history, I see a lot of young men dying in battle. And I think, they too won’t know what sex is like. And, they too won’t know what marriage is like. And, they too won’t know what having children is like. But it’s not just the ones who die, it’s the hardships they have to go through, as well. Cold, hunger, imprisonment, pain, loss of their friends, etc.

I remember reading about one of my favorite battles – probably the most famous battle of the Korean War, which is our most moral war. It’s about Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They had to hold a hill beside a vital road against overwhelming numbers of Chinese soldiers during the freezing cold North Korean winter. I remember reading about how one soldier got up to go to the bathroom, and was nearly shot by a sniper. He fell over on his own poop, which had already frozen by the time it hit the ground. For months after, I would always think about this whenever I went into a bathroom. We have pre-warmed water in our bathrooms at work, along with soap, lysol spray, febreeze, contact lense cleaner, hand sanitizer, and other things. Just understanding what other people have to go through in war helps me to be more patient with the little tiny setbacks that I experience. I used to get very anxious when anything went wrong, because of I was raised by strict immigrant parents. That anxiety seemed to last a long time, but since I started to read military history, I’ve been much more patient. I know that things could be worse.

Thankfulness

The third thing that I’ve experienced is thankfulness. Not just for all the things that I have because of what our armed forces have done, e.g. – basic human rights, prosperity, liberty, security, etc. But also specifically about those who gave their lives so that I could live free in a free country, and practice my Christian faith without fear.

Here are two of my favorite Medal of Honor stories from World War 2, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
PETER TOMICH

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria.

Although realizing that the ship was capsizing as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

And:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
JAMES RICHARD WARD

Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio.

When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

I do think that it’s important for Christians to read these kinds of stories in order to feed their own awareness of what it must have been like for Jesus to give his life voluntarily for us.

There is no shortcut to gratitude. You have to constantly reflect on the sacrifices made by others for you, if you are to have any concrete reason for feeling grateful. The more you read about examples of people giving their lives for others, the more you’ll appreciate what Jesus did for you. It will make you grateful.

There is a very annoying idea out there in the culture that says that people just do whatever is easy and fun for themselves, and since everyone else is always doing what makes them feel good, then there is no need to be thankful for anything. It’s comforting for people to delude themselves with that belief, but it’s false.

My reading list

You can check out the “What I am Reading” section of the blog to see which military history books I’ve been reading.