[Continued from last week.]
Following Marine Corps boot camp, I went to a six-month course at the United States Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va. During that time I was safe with my secret pacifist views. I settled in to a hectic but predictable routine during that period of time.
After several months, I was called in to the office and told that, following completion of the school, I needed to prepare for service in Vietnam. As I walked away from the building, I thought that I needed to call my parents. What would I say? “Hey, Mom and Dad, I’m going to Vietnam but, because of my readings in the New Testament, I believe that I cannot shoot another human being even to defend myself or someone else. Oh, and no one in the Marine Corps is aware that I feel and believe this way. So, if I see combat, I’ll probably die in Vietnam but I’m going to go because it’s my duty”?
But, no, I didn’t say that. In fact, as I was dialing the number, I knew I couldn’t say that. So, I decided to hang up, not make the call, and tell them nothing. I don’t recall that I was afraid. I do remember that I was resigned. I would do my duty, go where I was told, keep my pacifism to myself, and trust God for the outcome.
Not long ago, I went to lunch with a man who has seen countless assignments in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I asked him if he thought about or was afraid of getting killed. The man, a Christian who is also a genuine warrior, said, “No, not really. Oh, I am well aware that I could die. But I’m in the Lord’s hands. If I come home safe, and that gives Him glory, I’m good with that. However, if I get killed and He somehow gets glory from that, I’m okay with that too. Either way, I’m in his hands.”
I didn’t go to Vietnam. Several weeks later, I was informed that things had changed and I was no longer to worry about going. I didn’t ask questions and I still don’t know how these things work. For the time being, at least, I wasn’t going to have to shoot or to be shot. Although, since that time, I have suffered a fair amount of guilt over not going to Vietnam, at the time I just accepted it for what it was. I was there to do my duty and to obey lawful orders.
I discovered that it is relatively easy to be a pacifist when things are peaceful and all is well. I was never a brawler so I didn’t look for conflicts. Growing up in a working class neighborhood, I discovered that making friends and having a good sense of humor prevented most fights. It was the same on a Marine Base. Keeping your nose clean, doing your job, and keeping your mouth shut goes a long way in the prevention of violence.
And, then, some things changed.
[To be continued next week.]
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]