One cannot always turn the other cheek
Re: Christ’s sacrifice cannot be compared to sacrifice of military men and women (January letters). As a retired military man (Second World War, Korea, United Nations in Cyprus and the Middle East) I must refute much of what letter writer Marc B. Young has written. First, you will find that most men and women in the Armed Forces are ardent pacifists, particularly if they have witnessed the carnage of war. At the same time they are sufficient realists to realize that one cannot always turn the other cheek – witness the Second World War. Mr. Young states, “our young people, largely drawn into uniform by the offer of a job (are) being sacrificed.” Anyone who joins for that purpose usually either quickly drops out or finds a real purpose alongside their contemporaries and, if this very general statement were true, we would not have our troops asking for return tours to Afghanistan to finish a task they started.
The situation in Afghanistan is a mirror repeat of Korea. Canadians, along with the other United Nations forces, went in to free a country invaded by a hostile enemy and one bent on taking away the peace and freedom of a sovereign nation. One look at the Korea of today is proof that our aims and endeavours of 1950 were both worthwhile and true to Christian ethics.
Marc Young writes that there is a problem drawing comparisons between Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of our soldiers. He falls into the trap of generalization that pays disrespect to those who serve under the unlimited liability of the military.
You cannot equate the actions of governments who create and task militaries to carry out missions involving lethal force with the men and women who implement those decisions. Our Christian witness is unequivocal in condemning violence, but that condemnation does not extend to the people who serve as best they can.
The thousands of soldiers I served with over 20 years were not drawn into uniform “by the offer of a job,” but rather to serve a higher ideal: service of their nation. None of those I served with considered it a “job,” but rather a calling into self-sacrificing service.
As Christ said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” At its most basic level this is the reason that soldiers serve, to be able to support their friends.
The witness from the soldiers who shared a LAV with Captain Nicola Goddard attest to this – they all spoke of how her first priority was the mission, followed by concern for them, always placing her own needs last. For a soldier who stands for something more than a job, attempting to bring order to a foreign land, that sacrifice serves as proof that our government is misguided. To assert anything else does violence to the memories of thousands of Canadians who have bought freedom in foreign lands with their blood.
To the ways of this world, Christ’s sacrifice was a waste, a senseless murder by a nation blind to who was before them. Shall we consider the selfless sacrifices of our men and women in uniform in the same manner?
Rev. Matthew Oliver