These words leapt off the page when I was reading this week an article on those from Vermont who have died in the current mid East conflict (Article here, titled Home of the Brave). Apparently Vermont, with a tradition of military sacrifice going back to the Revolution, has recorded more combat deaths per head of population than any other state. As stirring as the stories were, it was these words that caught my eye and were the most moving. Written by Jesse Strong, a marine who was killed in Iraq, they speak about faith in an unshakable and unique way that I find appealing. Some might argue that they are fatalistic sentiments and no more or less dangerous than those Muslims who approach battle with a conviction that death is a mere passing to greater things. For their part their faith can give them resolution and tenacity, yet against their opponents they fight to the last breath in apparently irrational and fanatical diligence, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Faith in any heart can inject stoutness and resolve, and even acceptance of impending death. But Jesse’s words shout out something more personal and inspiring than something blind methinks. It tells me he owned something personal in that faith, and a belief that the person who would determine his bulletproofing had his best interests at heart. I can only imagine Jesse would have been a positive influence on his military colleagues as a result. Indeed, a prowl around Google turns up a page dedicated to his life and death which would suggest that indeed was the case. And once again the power of the internet works some good – a man I never met becomes a little more personal, a face is morphed into the otherwise meaningless statistics of the conflict (4000+ coalition soldiers dead in Iraq) and a person’s faith shines through and inspires and uplifts. (Maybe someone can tell the Chinese government the internet is not all bad!) Above all Jesse’s line here underscores just what a personal faith can really mean in shaping your perspective when all around you can be pretty shabby, as combat in Iraq no doubt can be.