“We should just nuke the whole country,” my niece was saying as I walked into the room where my nephew, Andrew, friends and family were huddled around a laptop computer watching a BBC war news video.
Stopping to watch for a minute, I listened as the correspondent described his surroundings as the “worst of the fighting areas.” Then, a collective cheer went up as there stood my nephew talking with his fellow soldiers in the background shot of this war-torn Afghan city.
How surreal it was to see this muscular, yet mild mannered, young Marine standing next to me. Home from a horrific war on terror, he started to describe what he was doing during the time this particular video was shot.
“I think I was telling a joke,” he said. We all commented at how at ease he looked. “Well, I had just returned from being on patrol and if there was any time war could feel peaceful, it was when you were back at your barracks with your buddies…safe.”
As the video played on, the correspondent was showing how the soldiers would fill bags of candy, coloring books and other small toys and hand them out to the Afghan children.
“Did you do that?” Someone asked Andrew.
“No, I spent my time looking out for snipers and trying to decipher which farmers were ‘goat herders by day’ but ‘terrorists by night.’”
The video scene switched to one of the correspondent interviewing an Afghan farmer.
“They shot that guy later,” says Andrew, nonchalantly. “He was a terrorist.”
I was curious why it was Andrew’s division that was in this area described as “where the worst fighting was happening.”
“It was just our turn.” Andrew said when I questioned him. “Other returning soldiers will tell you they fought in the same area, just to sound cool. But I was there. I know.”
I didn’t want to ask him what he did, indeed, know. I am sure the gruesome details were not something he would long forget and definitely did not need to bring to mind when he had only been home for three months.
The video ended with the correspondent explaining that he felt the ‘war on terror’ would continue in this area of Afghanistan long after the American troops were sent home.
“That doesn’t make any sense, my niece exclaimed. How could the war still be against terrorists if our American troops are no longer fighting to protect us from them?”
“Didn’t you see the children?” Andrew asked with a look of concern on his face.
“Yes,” said my niece.
“Well, when the American soldiers leave, there will be no stopping the existing terrorists from grabbing those kids and turning them into terrorists. The war we are fighting is not only for us, but for the children, too.”
I wanted to applaud and then hug the stuffing out of Andrew at that moment. Later, on my way out the door for home, I did just that.
“Unless you’ve been there you can’t understand the lonely feeling that comes over you when you realize no one knows the true purpose of your mission,” Andrew said hugging me back. He then returned to his buddies who patted him on the back and poured him another beer.
Driving home, I was reminded that there was another Person who would understand and had “been there” as well. Not only had Jesus stood with Andrew as he fought courageously for our country, but He knew what it was like to be lonely and misunderstood.
How great is our God that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to experience the unspeakable tragedies of life so that, in any difficult circumstance, we could run to Him and hear Him whisper, “I know your pain…I have been there.”
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