Trinity’s 125th Anniversary
Everett’s Dedicated WWI Victory Memorial Site
By Patrick “Bill” Edwards O’Brien, USMC Viet Nam 67-69,
1st Marine Division, Provence Qung Tri
For those soldiers who didn’t, or still, can’t find their way home…
Christian scripture tells us “There is no greater love than this: to
lay one’s life down for one’s friends.” John 15:13. Soldiers in combat often hold the lives of their fellows dearer than their own. In our culture this represents a convergence of Christ’s sacrifice, military training, and the spontaneous bonds of love and loyalty that develops among men who fight together. This willingness for self-sacrifice is endemic in combat and evidenced by thousands of unambiguously
sacrificial deaths in War. My Catholic religious instruction as an adolescent offered a strong view of self-sacrifice. Often explicitly guaranteeing that the person who dies this way~ an eternity in paradise is awaiting them. However, there is a built-in implication at the same time. God will see to it that the act of self-sacrifice or the sincere willingness to die for the other, will spare that life.
Here’s a Story:
A Marine was in a Bunker. A grenade is rolled in by a Viet Cong. He dives on it. It’s a dud. As he starts to rise up, a rocket-propelled grenade (R.P.D.) crashes through the bunker and kills all the other Marines. What happens when the sacrifice sincerely rendered does not “work”?
In an ethical universe, run by a just loving and all- powerful God, the person he was willing to die for, is not supposed to die. Incomprehensibly, he does die and mortal soldiers discover that they differ from the Immortals in a heart breaking way. They cannot save.
They cannot protect…cannot resurrect, the comrades they have come to value more than themselves.
In Homer’s “The Iliad”, he shows us the gods have the power to save a mortal’s life. Muslims, Jews and Christians view God as having the power to save, protect and resurrect and when he does not, then His failure violates the Covenant many thought had been passed down to them as religious instruction. The young man who takes his religious instruction to heart finds it unbearable. He was willing to die for him and now he is dead. He is now guilty of failure. And God? God is Gone.
This devastating sense of spiritual abandonment and meaninglessness is the unintended outcome of Judeo Christian religious education.
I know of no actual combat veteran who wants to be thanked for his or her service. The German theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer might call this “Cheap Grace.” Instead, ask the combatant about the experience of standing at the doorway of beauty and terror, and stepping across.
*98,000 Viet Nam Combat Vets have committed suicide.
*Combat Vets from Iraqi and Afghan Wars are committing suicide at a rate of 20 every day. Something’s wrong. We can help.
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and
keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home
and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly
grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give
them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant
them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.