New Chaplain Email

Well, there have finally been some developments in my whole Army existence… I think the last time I wrote was just before my unit deployed, which was about two or three weeks ago. Since then, I have been in touch with the rear detachment chaplain and I am still seeing the psychiatrist who interviewed me for the CO application. It seemed after the unit left that I was going to wait for my packet to be forwarded and the likely course of action would be that it would get approved then I would be transferred to another unit in a Noncombatant role. Once I got moved to another unit, however, the stop loss would not affect me and I would be separated from the army since my last day of service was supposed to be August 8th. Last week, I spoke to the chaplain and gave him a copy of my packet and told him what had happened to it since I last saw it. I talked to him also about the things that my commander had said and how things had been mishandled (at least administratively) thus far. I also spoke to him about something else that I had only recently begun to feel.

A few weeks ago, I applied to Christian Peacemaker Teams to go to Israel in November. When I spoke to several individuals in my unit about it, they told me there was no chance I would be able to go to a place like that. I asked about the prospect of a place like the Congo or Africa; again, no dice – health reasons. I began to think I could not pursue the kind of mission trips I was interested in while I am still in uniform. I feel very strongly that God has called me to be a peacemaker, to work against war. In a way, I felt that I was being held back, or domesticated, by not being allowed to seek the path I felt lead to. I shared this concern with both my psychiatrist and the acting chaplain last week and they showed concern for my situation. The psychiatrist was disappointed that his original recommendation from June was ignored, and asked me if I had spoken to my new commander about the situation. I shared with him about the time I attempted to do that, only to be told to get out of his office (another long story). Shortly after that appointment, I was called outside his office for something, only to hear him tell another officer in there (with the office door wide open), “I don’t want that motherf—er in here.” So, needless to say, I am not interested in speaking to him again unless forced to. My psychiatrist asked for my permission to call the commander, which I didn’t object to. I asked him what he hoped to address with him, the doc said he was going to ask what the commander hoped to do about me, the separate as per his recommendation or to keep me on rear-detachment. He also filled out another mental status evaluation to give to the commander; in this one, he again recommended discharge, but also reiterated the fact that I have a diagnosed mental disorder (failure to adjust), that must be acknowledged.

The chaplain, on the other hand, suggested I go back to the inspector general about the administrative errors in my packet, and to get legal involved. I mentioned I was considering withdrawing my current packet and submitting a new one requesting discharge instead. He thought that was definitely a viable route, but suggested I speak to my commander first. When I speak to him, he said, ask him to honor the psychiatrist’s recommendation for separation. If the commander does not wish to do that, then advise him of my intent to submit a new packet. The chaplain was very supportive and seemed eager to help with whatever path I chose to pursue. I spoke to both the chaplain and the doctor last week. Before I left the doc’s office, he told me to come in today (Monday) to see how things had gone.

The psychiatrist had called my commander and relayed to him the fact that the mental disorder trumps anything to do with the conscientious objector request. He told my commander that the packet should be abandoned and I should be separated administratively for medical reasons. Apparently, the new commander had not been briefed about my status, other than that my old commander believed I was trying to get out of a deployment. From what the psychiatrist told me today, the commander plans to separate me through medical channels as he requested. I don’t know for sure what will actually happen, but I suppose I should go to the commander later this week and see if I can speak to him professionally and figure out what he hopes to pursue.

I cannot deny that Jesus has called me to something. There isn’t a shred of doubt that what I saw on April 20th was directly from God. A couple friends have shared with me their concern that I need to stop fighting the system and just suffer unjustly, to let the system have its way with me. Are there any others who have read this far who feel the same way? I do truly see the spirit of a servant in that, but I also believe that truth ultimately outweighs humility, but they can both be achieved simultaneously, look at John 18:23 for instance. Part of me cannot allow someone to spread lies and break the law, I am too stubborn I suppose. A bit of it may be pride, but some of it may also be a commitment to justice. The reason I have not been court-martialed is that they have no real case against me, I have never deviated from the governing regulations or disrespected anyone. They have found no professional fault with me, so to speak. I am pursuing this because God has given me my vocation. I tried honestly to go with the army, but the ‘system’ would not allow that. I would like to go even on leave, but again, the ‘system’ will not allow that. What is my recourse? I cannot abandon or delay His call to come and follow Him; John 9:62.

I spoke to another soldier over the weekend about my desire to go to Iraq without a weapon; he could not understand why I would go to war without a weapon. He didn’t realize that I had all the weapons I needed already, and none of them fired bullets. He asked, as everyone does, how I hoped to defend myself. I answered “Christ in me, Christ through me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ on my left and on my right, Christ below me and Christ above me. (a quote I found recently, I cannot remember the author)” Its about faith and trust in God; a rifle does nothing to strengthen my faith, instead, it deceives me into thinking a gun can buy me safety. In fact, to me, it is repulsive to hold in my hands. All a weapon achieves is destruction. I cannot feed the homeless a bullet or the buttstock of my rifle, I cannot teach children math with my upper receiver or my trigger guard, or care for the sick and elderly with my muzzle or my front sight. What utility does a weapon have? I loved what Jim Douglass told Jonathon and Leah in Iraq, “God will be our shield.” He quickly reminds them that that does not necessarily guarantee their physical safety (we are not to worry about those who can harm the flesh but not the spirit). My life is Christ’s, to do with as He pleases.

One thought on “New Chaplain Email

  1. I have been following the blog of an old high school friend of mine who is currently a professor (PhD.) at the Denver Seminary. He blogs as “The Constructive Curmudgeon”. He is a very conservative person both theologically and politically. I do not identify myself as a Christian. While his ‘testimony’ tends to drive me further away from Christianity, yours gives me a very positive sense of hope? or something.

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