Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Running To. . .or From

I have been writing for months about what I see and what I do. Many of the questions I get from friends and family are about what the Army is like for me. But partly they are asking what is the Army like at all. Most of my co-workers and friends don't know a serving soldier except as an acquaintance or a cousin from somewhere else.

But today when I was tired and miserable from being up late and then watching the smoke roll out of the hotel where we are sleeping, I thought, "What happens when I get deployed, and I am up all night with something more serious than a kitchen fire? Can I handle that?" I had opposing urges to let my one-year enlistment run out and leave and to see a regular Army recruiter and volunteer for a tank unit.

I am in this to both run to what I believe is my eternal future and run from the life I have been leading. I don't mean my family. I mean the guy who over the past two decades has transplanted himself from high-school-educated soldier and Teamster (four years on the dock at Yellow Freight) to "communications professional." I have a lovely family, a big house, and have made more than 40 trips overseas on business in the past decade.

To paraphrase CS Lewis, I am in the world, but more importantly, the world is in me. I do love the world in a way that I did not when the world was a big, hostile, mysterious place. I joined the Army to run away from the privilege that has become part of my life. Eventually we will say to Our Lord, "Thy Will Be Done" or He will say the same to us and we will be eternally undone. And the life I have been living is increasingly dominated by my will. But the Army is the opposite. On duty, I do what I am told by whomever is in charge. I do what they say, when they say. I eat when the chow is available, or not. But I don't choose meal times or menus.

So I am running away from my love of this life and running toward the next, but it is already difficult at one weekend per month and now a two-week school. I have enough money to skip the mess hall when I want to. So I do. I am already equivocating and I am three days in to some of the lightest duty the Army has--a school. Just two weeks of beign clean, well-fed and learning about equipment.

My long-term plan is to get the training I need, go on active duty for a year, then live a simpler life making less money. No more expensive clothes, no more expensive food whenever I want. I still think it is the right thing to do. But I have to keep running. If I stop, I will turn back.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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