Saturday, December 21, 2013

Request Permission to Go Ashore?




 And thus began basic training for me on this day in 1993, 20 years ago today.

I know most civilians can not comprehend the love of the service most members have for it.  You're looking at men and women willing to die for what they believe in.

I loved the navy.  It was what I wanted to do since I was eight when my dad re-enlisted.  My grandpa was on the USS Helena at Pearl Harbor on December 7th and earned the Silver Star.  Dad was in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and was even captured at one point.  I guess you could say, or would say, I was made for it.

Boot camp wasn't too bad.  Nuclear Power School was hell though. Said to be comparable to SEAL training in terms of being the elite and I believe it.  I sat in those classes with some geniuses with photographic memories.  In just 12 weeks I got nearly two years of college credit for the first phase of training.  I wouldn't wish nuke school on anyone.  I actually went to captain's mast though with 10 days to go until I was finished and lost my nuke credentials on a technicality and it was the best thing that happened to me.

I learned stupidity has consequences.  Sometimes, you screw up, you're going to pay and all your work will count for nothing other than the lesson that you blew it. 

It is a good lesson to learn, one more people could benefit from in this age of entitlement.  I learned there are consequences.

More than a couple of times.

 After that came the military police academy, and eventually some pretty intense PTSD from being on alert, being on edge, being in the line of fire and having to watch the rules of engagement and being worried about ending up in the news if I screw up or got killed.

My father was still active duty at the time and he pulled orders with congress to get me transferred off the ship I was going to and secured me the military police academy training.  Normally when you go to captain's mast you don't get trained on anything and you end up in the bottom of a garbage scow shoveling sewage out of the bilge.  At the time, Iraq was going on and did didn't want me just going into full blown combat like him and his dad and my job put me below decks, the worst place to be in the navy in a war and he knew I'd be the last man out because of my job.  Machinists Mates and Electricians Mates usually stay behind to power the ship while everyone else escapes and we go down with the ship.  I have two other family members who were Machinists Mates like me who were killed at Pearl Harbor down "in the hole" keeping the power on while and so the other sailor's could escape.

 So, strangely I got my security clearance back, and found myself off to the military police academy.  Very unusual, and the other sailors were jealous and it was unexplicable and dad didn't tell me till some years later what he did.  It was because I am the only child of the family and dad worked for an exemption for me. He volunteered to go forward in the gulf in my place and I ended up with a badge, more than a few guns, a police car, and more authority than the CO and more power than most men will ever experience in their lifetime by the my nineteenth birthday. Dad said he did enough for all of us and didn't want me going through what he did.

I don't have much respect - though I have compassion - I don't have much respect for soldiers and sailors and marines with PTSD who use it as an excuse to rape, rob, become alcoholics and the like. 

It isn't what we were taught to do.  We don't win over there to come home and screw it up at home and claim we can't hack it. 

But at any rate, I learned from the nuclear power field to be meticulous to a degree not seen in the civilian world. I learned to put my life on the line literally for my values - death before dishonor.  I remember going into the line of fire to save a child one time in a hostage situation and I said a prayer, "Am I going to get it?" and I felt the answer "You're going to be fine." And I said "God, if I'm going to get it you better let me know because I'm going in there!" and in I went.  The spirit can give you unmatched bravery and I always felt like "I'm going *home* or I'm going 'home' - either way it's going to all be good."

Once you've faced death realizing you're making a choice to allow yourself to be killed to fulfill your mission and live up to your values, a lot of other things in life are a lot simpler.  I've lost a job because I was true to my values and figured nothing I was going to go through in losing my job would compare to being killed and taking a bullet for someone else.

I began running and swimming to train for the SEAL teams to go to BUDs.  I wasn't quite decided what to do when I got a blessing that said the Lord would have me leave the military and prepare for a full-time mission.

9/11 was very difficult for me.  My shipmates were in harm's way and here I was as a missionary knocking on doors and living "the good life" and here I was trained to kill or be killed to stop a threat and I was nowhere to be found near where men were needed.  I've told the story before but in short, I almost left the mission field to re-enlist until my mission president reminded me I was called by the Lord to be here and the numbers for the work I was doing compared to the numbers willing and able to go to war were significantly smaller and had a much more specific requirement.  

So today would be my last day in the service and still I struggle but am finally letting go.  The Lord has another military he wants me in, God's Army, and it will preside over the nations of the earth here soon.

Since then, I went to receive my commission as an officer in the Army as a psychologist and the spirit strongly told me "NO!" every time.  I wanted to, so bad.  I *LOVED* the military.  It made more sense than the civilian world for sure.  I missed out on my dream of being a fighter pilot which got scrapped once I went to captain's mast and the Lord led me out so I wasn't going to be a SEAL - the best of the best of the best!

So.....what and who am I?

Perhaps I've recounted this too, but two years ago on an anniversary my wife and I were staying near a hotel right next to the Air National Guard base and I was watching the F-15's go right overhead and it was *KILLING* me to not be able to follow that dream.   In a moment of reflection as I watched them go overhead, the spirit of the Lord laughed and said, "If you only knew what I had in store for you, you would never envy them again."  

But what have I learned / learned since then.

I have learned that the atonement of Jesus Christ has helped me overcome my 'jumpiness' from the military police stint, never mind it has taken going on two decades because some stuff becomes so ingrained in you.

I have learned that while bullets are nice to protect yourself, are only effective in a straight line and if you hit your target and nothing gets in their way and you have some to shoot and that there are 41,252 different directions your gun won't cover when you really get in a jam.

I learned some things are worth dying for.

I learned some things are worth killing for.

I have learned I have what it takes to put my life on the line and risk it to save another.

I have also learned that militaries are only as strong as the values that drive them.

I have learned there are things more powerful than guns and nuclear weapons in the world.

I have learned that military training will hone your skills outside, but it is up to you and God to make what is inside meaningful and useful.

I have learned that if you neglect what is inside of you, you can be the best fighter in the world, and you will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I have learned had I stayed in I would have simply been a cog in a machine, forgotten and 'used' by an administration and a machine whose morals are questionable at best now.

I have learned the real war, bigger than the US Navy and unable to be fought by it, is here at home and is hidden and is not in uniform: 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 2).

I have learned that if you want to serve your country, do not die for it, live for it.

I have learned that the most important true patriots are the mothers and fathers and citizens who defend the ideas of freedom here at home - they are the true defenders of liberty.

I have learned when we have to defend liberty with force, or enforce it, it is a dark day in the eyes of the Lord pertaining to what we have been given.

And lastly, I have learned that war is not glorious, nor is killing or fighting or battle.  I cannot stomach my friends likes who find things like Ultimate Fighting Championships entertaining or enlightening because it is not.  The destruction and harm of another human being for entertainment is not right in the eyes of God, even when it is entered into voluntarily, and especially not for money - we may as well call abortion a spectator sport and some of us root for the doctor and others for the fetus and give the mother a bowl of popcorn to watch the whole thing - it is like filming prostitution and no different and I stand by that.  It is an abomination just as much was gladiator combat and human sacrifice.

Once you have risked your life to save another human being and seen humans go down and killed yourself when you couldn't be faster.....those things are for the foolish, unenlightened and I fear for their souls in a larger sense.

I have learned I never want to see war and I hope we can live in peace and I know the gospel was meant to help us do this.

And lastly, most importantly, I know that life is a precious gift from our father in heaven.  I know it is not meant to be ended in a moment of regret.  I know that each of ours is special and has a special purpose which can only be understood in eternity.  I know that our lives may not look glamorous, but glamor and glory can be deceptions from the hidden gifts of Christ.  I have learned not to envy others, but to be perfectly happy where I am with what I have and how rich I am with what I have been given.  I have learned not to look over the fence into the 'other greener pasture' nor to chase the illusions of fame, power, glory, wealth and influence because I am right where the Lord wants me to be.

I know your life, Dear Reader, may not appear fancy or famous - perhaps even dismal at times or right now!  Though you possess historic technology to read my blog that even the Caesars and Pharaohs could have never dreamed, your life too is important and is specifically tailored for an eternal mission. You are blessed!

Beware of the great and spacious building.   Hold to the rod and persist through the mists of darkness.

It is going to be okay.   And now in finishing my not-as-well-written-as-I-would-like-blog that I will probably edit:

"Request permission to go ashore?"

"Permission granted."

Carry on shipmates, and have a fine, fine, Navy Day.

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