Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Moving Letter from a Marine in Iraq

As we celebrate the birth of our free and blessed nation, I wanted to share a letter from a marine today. As history
has shown, our freedom often comes at a huge price. The attack on Sept. 11, 2001 showed us that our nation definitely needs to be defended from any future terrorist attacks. Sometimes that means being on the offense and going into
the countries that breed hatred through brainwashing and training by terrorist leaders and dictatorial regimes. Fighting the war there prevents us from having to fight it
on our own soil. We owe our safety and lives to the great
and brave men and women of our armed forces. Please continue to pray for their safety and success in the war on terror. And, whenever you can, please tell them how much
we appreciate their service for our country!

The following letter written by a marine named Josh shows us just how wonderful and brave they really are...and how love of family and country motivate them to endure all that they do and serve....for a cause greater than themselves.

THANK YOU JOSH and all others who have served, are currently serving or will serve in the future to protect our great nation.

As radio talk show host Michael Medved often says, "For
the greatest nation on God's green earth!"

Christine

****************************************************************


A Moving Letter from a Marine in Iraq

A Final Letter Home
Thursday, September 30, 2004

The following is a letter written by Marine Sergeant Josh Mandel,
who served with the 1st LAR in Iraq, to his parents on the eve of his return from the Middle East.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I've been looking forward to the day when I could tell you that this is
the last letter I'll be writing you from Iraq. Well, this is the last letter
I'll be writing you from Iraq!!! Ahhhhhhh...that felt good. I hope all's
well at home and by the time this arrives you'll be packing up for, or en route to, Camp Pendleton. I can't wait to see you and hug and hug and hug you and then get some real food! It's been an eye-opening seven months and a time in my life that will undoubtedly affect who I am the rest of my life. Someone who wrote me put it well by saying, "The
person you become will always be shaped by your experience now." He was a Marine in Vietnam and his words have stuck in my head. Iraq has changed the way I see the world and painted a clearer picture of how
the world sees me as an American. Even though I didn't think it was possible, my love for our country and pride to wear this uniform is even greater today than it was when we boarded those birds seven months
ago yesterday. Serving here, under the same flag that Papa Harold fought for and that Papa Joe yearned for, has been an incredible honor and privilege. I'm not sure when this fight will be over, but I am sure
that it's just and for a good cause. As I wrote you earlier, I hope the American people will be able to stomach the sacrifice required to accomplish this complicated mission of destroying terrorism and developing democracy. Both of those tasks will take time, but I remain confident that at the end of the day, America will once again succeed. Living out here hasn't been the epitome of pleasantness (understatement), but it's all been made easier to endure by the incredible and very generous support from home. Along those lines
and on behalf of my entire Platoon, I'd appreciate you telling our family and friends how much their love, words, and goodies have impacted us. I've tried my best to thank people who've supported us in so many different ways. Given our limited free time, I haven't been able to respond to much of the mail that's come in. However, I want everyone
to know that whatever they sent, be it a postcard with a New York hot
dog vendor on the front (Mara Leventhal) or a bottomless box of spirit boosters, they contributed to our mission and morale in a very
important way. This past week the battalion chaplain gave us a talk called the "warrior transition brief." It was about adjusting back to life
in the states and all the things that come along with interacting with civilians, vs. Marines 24/7. As you might imagine, many of the Devil Dogs in the audience were rolling eyes, but it actually gave me a good feeling that he was giving this brief. I don't foresee myself having any trouble adjusting back, but who knows? Some of my fellow Marines
who are not too far out of high school have been pretty shaken up out here, and it's good to know that the Corps is being proactive about keeping them from whacking out when we reach the land of fast cars, alcohol, girlfriends, family, and most of all, freedom. But just to give
you a heads up, if I tell you I have to make a head call and you see me going out to the back yard with a shovel, you have my permission to smack me around. Or if we sit down for a nice meal and I'm done with dessert before the rest of the table has finished their soup, you have my permission to give me a sharp under-the-table kick (to the shin, not groin). Or if we're driving down the street and I stop the car to inspect every garbage bag on a tree lawn, you have my permission to place me
in the trunk. Well, you get the picture. But don't worry, I'm coming
back just fine upstairs (or as my beloved Corps calls it, my "brain housing group").A while back I wrote you about one of my fellow
Marines who played us a recording of his baby's heartbeat sent from
his pregnant wife. That Marine is about to become a dad any day now and we're all pretty excited for him. In a way, it's situations like that
that remind us who and what we're fighting for.My who and what is made up of many memories of home and many hopes for America. Within that is you and the way in which you've always been there for
me as parents. You've taught me to treat people with kindness and respect and have instilled me with an appreciation and love for family. You raised me to want to serve my country and for that I'll always be grateful. I have to end this letter now, so farewell from the other side of the globe. Please travel safe out to California and tell Rachel the same coming from Chicago. I love you and miss you and can't wait to see you. Signing off from the big sandbox and looking forward to the big reunion at Camp Pendleton.

Your loving son,
Josh

7 comments:

Anna said...

Hi Christine -

A friend's son was recently home for two weeks from serving in Iraq. He expressed his unhappiness with the media. They are not telling the whole story.
He said they come out and look for the bad. They search for the discontented and those with an axe to grind. They don't show the people of Iraq, who daily come up to the U.S. troops and express their appreciation. As much as war brings suffering, they are grateful Saddam Hussein is history. He killed so many innocent people.

He's back in Iraq now. His name is Andrew. Please keep him in your prayers, along with another friend's son, Jeff.

Thanks.

Anna

Christinewjc said...

Hi Anna,

I hear such accounts ALL THE TIME! The liberal media wants to skew the information because they want the Bush Administration to fail. They claim that they don't want the military men and women to fail, but how can one emerge victorious and not the other?

Yes. Of course I will remember Andrew and Jeff in my prayers.

Lord God, I praise your Holy Name. As we celebrate our country's freedom today, I want to lift up our military service men and women, especially Andrew and Jeff in fervent prayer. Please protect them all from any harm while they serve our nation over in Iraq. I pray for defeat of the insurgents and I pray that you bind up and cast away any source of evil that would attempt to thwart their mission over there. I pray that the Iraqis would be trained quickly and efficiently so they can protect their own country and so that our troops can come home very soon. I ask for all of this through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thomas said...

Christine,

Sometimes I like to think it would be possible to reach you and your allies on a rational plane, but I am rapidly losing hope. Do you want to believe in the propaganda of the Bush administration about Iraq? Fine. Seriously, though, do you really think that God cares about the outcome of this petty conflict? By your own logic, your omnipotent god caused or allowed the American military defeat in Vietnam -- the same god that allowed all of our military defenses to fail on 9/11, killing thousands of Americans. Your god oversaw the failure of the Spanish republic and the establishment of fascism in Spain. Your god led Mao by the hand into power in China, with the concommitant deaths of millions. Your god was the omnipotent shepherd of gases, who pushed the Zyklon-B molecules along their paths through the chambers of Auschwitz. Your god guided the hands of Saddam Hussein and Ayotollah Khomeini as they led their nations toward mutual destruction. Then again, your god was the forger in secret lairs of diphtheria, of cholera, malaria, of HIV, or cancers of all kinds, of intestinal parasites and ravenous insects, of the little worms that live beneath the eyelids of children along the Nile and gnaw away at their vision... By taking on the funny little titles of "Omnipotent" and "Omniscient," your god assumes at once all moral responsibility for all suffering in the world; and from the mere fact of the immense and unpardonable chaos, destruction, hunger, poverty, disease, and war that plague our otherwise forgettable planet, your god loses forever any claim to the title "Benevolent." It is a good thing, therefore, that we can find no compelling sign that He, She, or (preferably) It exists, for otherwise we should all be driven into shrill unholy madness at the merest contemplation of those cruel and terrible contradictions of our celestial creator.

Why do I care what you think? Shouldn't I leave you alone with your strange delusions? I can't because your pig-headed political vision seeks to impose on my family, my love-life, and the free exercise of my mind. There is a fundamental equivalency between your insufferable faith-based ideology and the jihadist fantasies which guide the "insurgents." Your political dream is my theocratic dystopia, Christine. I do not spend my time worrying about your Heaven and your Hell, two fictitious fairy-lands out of the myths of Bronze-Age nomadic goat-herders. I do worry about your temporal aspirations, as you and the other moral munchkins of this land combine to represent a not inconsiderable threat to the continued liberty and life of our Republic. Other nations, even once glorious Persia, have been done in by the unchecked irrationalism of the credulous classes. Our America, founded on the secular principles of the European Enlighten, now faces the very real dangers of sliding backwards into a new dark age at the hands of fundamentalist Chrsitians and their intellectual equivalents of all creeds.

I would be a bit more concerned, if I were you. Then again, at the slightest hint of opposition, you dismiss your opponents as the minions of Satan, and retreat into the cratered shell of your unstudied faith. You spend your days praying for the destruction of liberty in our land while spending your nights praying for the Rapture to come along and shield you from the consequences. So I suspect that I may be wasting my time.

Happy Fourth of July anyway, my dear.

Christinewjc said...

Thomas,

I can see that you don't know the God of the Bible the same way that I know Him. You are probably correct. I'm not about to convince you otherwise, however, neither are you going to convince me otherwise. So where does this lead us? Obviously, at a stalemate.

You sound a lot like a guy who posts at my message board. You two would get along nicely. He has revealed to me that he has the same anger, hatred and disgust about God that you apparently possess.

I recently posted a response (at end of this post) to him on my message board that is relevant to your latest post, too. It probably won't matter much to you (as it didn't for him either), but my job isn't to convince anyone about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God's message for mankind as it is revealed through His Word. The best that I can do is share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with those who do not know him personally and leave the rest to God. I can also share and defend the tenets of Biblical Christianity, however, I suggest to all that they read the Bible for themselves.

Jesus said that God's Word is THE truth. In fact, the truth is not just revealed through God's Word, but lives in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." He also said that we would know the truth and the truth will set you free. He didn't say that he is 'a truth among many' or 'one way among several' or 'one way to life amongst many'. He claimed absolute truth exists and it only exists in and through Him.

But don't take my word for it. Read the Bible for yourself and come to your own conclusions. But watch out! Many a skeptic has attempted to do research in order to disprove the Bible and the truth about Jesus Christ and have come out believing in Him!

Maybe you have already read the Bible. I don't know your history regarding the claims of Jesus Christ and/or your knowledge of the Bible. However, I suggest reading about the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3 first. In that chapter, Jesus reveals the necessity to be born-again in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Elsewhere, there are many Scripture verses that tell us about the necessity of receiving the Holy Spirit of God (through being born-again)before one is able to truly discern what the Bible teaches.

As far as the war in Iraq is concerned, history will be the ultimate judge of that. Reagan was widely mocked and ridiculed for his stand agains Communism. History has shown (though men make mistakes and errors) that the ultimate outcome of it all resulted in much good and defeated the threat of Communism. I recommend that you view the DVD called, "In The Face of Evil". It's the history lesson of that era that is most likely not portrayed in our liberal schools and colleges.

People who are against the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq will probably never change their stance simply because they hate Bush, conservatism, the Bush doctrine on the war on terror and all of the political, social, and moral ideologies as well as the spiritual aspects of the man's faith. What I find is ironic, however, is that former President Bill Clinton AGREES with most of the Bush Admin. policies. After seeing the rabid, leftist, liberal ideology of Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 elections, I find myself actually saying that Clinton wasn't so bad afterall. Yikes...did I just admit that? He had a lot of moral failings as well as some political and social policies that I disliked. I also believe that he missed a prime opportunity to get Osama Bin Hidin' before the 9/11 tragedy. It is the moral failing of humans that often wreaks havoc and causes pain and sorrow in our world.

Not to veer to far off topic, I will say that the consequences of sin have led to evil, fear, deception and death. Jesus told us the bad news, "In this world, you will have trouble." However, he stated the Good News that tells us, "But take heart! For I have overcome the world." We could spend days discussing just that one verse and how it relates to all the anger, hate, fear and disgust that you ranted about in your post. For now, however, I will post the following biblical interpretation of how evil entered into the world and how God factors into the dilemma:

"According to Isaiah 45:7, God "creates good and evil" (KJV, cf. Jer. 18:11 and Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Hab. 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).

The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deut. 32:4; Matt.a 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Heb. 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15). In its temporal form, the execution of God's justice is sometimes called "evil" because it seems to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Heb. 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (ra) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as "calamity." Thus, God is properly said to be the author of "evil" in this sense, but not in the moral sense - at least not directly.

Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21-22).

The relation of God and evil can be summarized this way:

GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
____________________________

In the sense of sin
Moral evil
Perversity
Directly
Actuality of evil

GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
_________________________

In the sense of calamity
Non-moral evil
Plagues
Indirectly
Possiblity of evil "

Reference: "When Critics Ask" by Normal Geisler and Thomas Howe; pp 271-272

Christinewjc said...

Here is a link to an article that discusses the Iraq war issue in terms of "military brilliance or unintended consequences?"

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=40631

Christinewjc said...

Awwww!! I'm watching Nick and Jessica's Tour of Duty where they visit the troops in Iraq and now in Germany. They had a woman stationed there in Germany, stand next to them on stage and read the teleprompter to introduce the next guest. Surprise!! It turned out to be her husband who was flown in from serving in Korea!! What a great moment!! Every woman in the audience was crying!

Wow...I love that. I love when celebrities do good things (instead of criticizing the war) like that to make our military men and women happy...even if just for one day or performance.

Thomas said...

Good for your celebrity friend, Christine. God forbid that celebrities do bad things such as expressing their opinions on foreign policy in a free and democratic society.

You claim that I have "anger, hatred and disgust" at God. Nothing can be further from the truth! I can no more be angry at God than I can be at Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Aphrodite, Thor, Bilbo Baggins, or the Energizer Bunny. I simply do not believe that He exists. Anger is an emotion of unhappiness tied to a notion of an author of that unhappiness. People sometimes get unhappy at inanimate objects when things go awry, but this is an immature response. An event like last year's tsunami leaves me deeply saddened, but I can hardly get angry the impersonal forces in the earth's crust which led to the disaster. On the other hand, I hold that human beings have a legitimate faculty of free will that makes them morally responsible for their actions, and so I am deeply angered by the behaviour of human beings in Auschwitz, in the killing fields of Cambodia, or in the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib.

If I believed that an omnipotent God existed, I would hold Him responsible for the abysmal "design" of our universe, and I would certainly experience alternate waves of anger and disgust. Hatred, though, is a strong emotion, best avoided and replaced with a policy of critical love. I would do my best to forgive God for the obvious flaws in His creation.

You say that claim that "Jesus said that God's Word is THE truth." I'm sure he did -- or at least so does the literary character in the canonical gospels who plays the role of the possible historical Jesus. Yet if you would take a look at some of the other scriptures of the competing faiths of the world, you would see that all of them (or at least most of them) claim to be the voice of absolute truth. It is not remotely compelling for an author to make an argument predicated on the infallibility of his own text.

You seem excessively fond of the third chapter of the book attributed to "John," which I've read many a time, including a halting attempt at the original Greek. I myself prefer the Sermon on the Mount, but that's just me. Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus is one of his weaker moments, in which he comes off as smug and messianic. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." This doctrine makes no moral sense -- a person's character should be judged on the basis of her actions and her intentions, not on her opinions on arcane theological matters. Yet this doctrine of "salvation by faith" is powerful stuff -- it has led to Christianity becoming a self-perpetuating memetic organism that has survived (with many mutations) for thousands of years. Other "faith-based" philosophies, such as Islam, have done equally well for themselves. However, the success of a religious doctrine at intimidating or assuring the general populace provides no basis for analyzing the truth of its tenets.

"Read the Bible for yourself and come to your own conclusions. But watch out! Many a skeptic has attempted to do research in order to disprove the Bible and the truth about Jesus Christ and have come out believing in Him!"

Don't worry, Christine -- I'll be on my guard. That's what skepticism is all about. I don't go in for Christianity; I don't go in for Islam; I don't go in for astrology, tarot cards, or infomercials. When I read of a new scientific hypothesis, my skeptical warning lights go on red alert, and I don't give in until the authors have provided overwhelming evidence that their ideas must be true.

I'm not interested in "disproving the Bible." One may as well attempt to disprove "The Lord of the Rings" or "Madame Bovary." If the Bible said independantly verifiable things, as would a book on mathematics or astronomy, then I would believe them to be true. If the Bible described otherwise unverifiable events that were nonetheless reasonable, as do some of the ancient historians such as Thucydides, then we would be permitted to accept them in the absence of any contravening data. However, when the Bible asks us to believe quite extraordinary or impossible things, such as the resurrection of Christ, or the sudden halt in the rotation of the Earth described in Joshua, or the Noachian flood, then I have no choice but to dismiss these events as fabrications, until idependent confirmation can come along. You can choose to believe in these wacky things if you like (quoth Tertullian, credo quia absurdum), but don't act like you've got some pipeline to universal truth. Don't be offended when other people find your beliefs quaint or risible.

Speaking of laughable ideas: the notion that Gore and Kerry were rabid leftists. Ha! I'm a mostly conservative person, Christine, but even I have to admit that those two were a pair of milquetoasts. As for the Iraq War, I think it was a mistake, but I do think that fighing Al Qaeda is just as important as fighting Soviet Communism or German Nazism. What unites all three movements is a certain doctrinal fanaticism, although the doctrines diverged between the various cases. You can see the same sort of nastiness arising under the Catholicism of medieval Spain, the Puritanism of Salem, Massachusetts, the Shiism of Iran, and the Wahabbism of Saudi Arabia. Bad things happen when people believe they have the absolute truth. Very bad things.