A Letter to a Soldier

Dear Mark,

I’m not home to Windsor very much these days. My wife Vicky and I live in Toronto where I go to school and where she works. Right now it is Thanksgiving weekend and I am thankful to be sitting with my mother in my old house on Belleperche Place reading the The Windsor Star. It feels so good to be home.
Thankfully, mom saved two articles for me to read about a couple of Windsor boys fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. And quite frankly I was wonderfully shocked to see you and your cousin wearing shades sitting in front of some impressive looking artillery.
What an article to read! Twice I had to stop and let the words sink into my brain, letting the amazement settle a little. I simply could not believe that my friend from gradeschool and highschool “was in the turret of a LAV-3, firing at the Taliban and trying not to hit his fellow soldiers as they retreated to the armoured vehicle.” That one really needed to sink in.
I have long been a fan of war movies and novels and consider myself to be an amateur student of war. When I went to Concord Public School, I did a report on tanks for Mr. Ashworth’s grade five class. In Mr. Mahadio’s grade four class I wrote on Winston Churchill. The latter is still one of my heroes and I have since collected a number of books by or about him. One of my all-time favourite movies is Band of Brothers, a series where I consistently cried through the battle scenes of each episode.
My wife’s grandmother is a cute, ninety-five year old Welsh woman who was a Captain in the Second World War. She led a unit of nurses (then known as “Sisters”) all over the world to tend to injured soldiers. Her stories are absolutely amazing and I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the life that she led serving her country.
The purpose for this letter is to give you my respect and admiration as well. I share a lot of memories with you from our school days. But the memories you will share with your fellow soldiers overseas will be so much more significant. No longer are you the guy who thought he was Jim Morrison. The kid who got into trouble from Mr. Muir for pulling the gym change room lights on himself. You are no longer the guy who kept bugging me to take acid with him and skip school to watch Pink Floyd’s The Wall. You are now the guy who fights for freedom. Who stands against objective evil. You are the guy who protects his friends from Taliban insurgents. Quite frankly, you are a hero.
After reading the articles about you and Drew, a sense of pride swelled in my heart. Here am I, reading about a guy I used to party with, who is now a person of courage and grit. Not the shy singer of “Bleeding Feet,” but the guy who looks across the sands of Afghanistan wondering when the next bullet will scream across the sky.
My pastor in Essex fought with the Marines in Vietnam. No matter what one may have thought about that war, I know one thing: Pastor Valade is a hero. Although I am a strong supporter of the Canadian cause in Afghanistan, there are many Canadians, sadly, who are not. But no matter what one’s view of the war, our boys who are there are heroes. And I thank God that you are numbered among them.
I have committed myself to pray regularly for you and your cousin. My prayer is that God would protect the two of you from harm, that He would strengthen the bond of love between you and that you would be soldiers who fight with honour and dignity. May God, through Christ, reveal Himself to you on the fields of battle. May He show you that there is great meaning in what you do, even when those around you may die and everything seems useless. Always remember to never lose heart!
Concluding a long argument against pacifism, C.S. Lewis could say, “This, then, is why I am not a Pacifist. If I tried to become one, I should find a very doubtful factual basis, an obscure train of reasoning, a weight of authority both human and Divine against me, and strong grounds for suspecting that my wishes had directed my decision. As I have said, moral decisions do not admit of mathematical certainty. It may be, after all, that Pacifism is right. But it seems to me very long odds, longer odds than I would care to take with the voice of almost all humanity against me.”[1]
I was very proud to see you in The Windsor Star. Be assured that what you are doing is good and that there are many of us back here in Canada who thank God for you.

God bless,

Ian Clary

[1] Clive Staples Lewis, “Why I Am Not A Pacifist” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 90.


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4 responses to “A Letter to a Soldier

  1. Anonymous

    CS Lewis was right – being a pacifist would mean going against the “voice of almost all humanity against me.” But I wonder whether Christians really ought to be concerned about the voice of humanity. There is another voice I try to listen to and that is the voice of Jesus. And he has clearly spoken about such matters – unfortunately many of those who claim to be Bible believing only are Bible believing at certain convenient times. Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies. Jesus taught that we are to bless those who curse us. Jesus taught us to pray for those who abuse us. And Jesus’ life is an interpretation of this – Jesus’ love for his enemies – us – meant that he died a death as the result of our sins. He did not resist human violence with violence. What greater just cause would there be then for Jesus to resist violence when it was aimed at him? Yet he did not – and in this he is to be our guide. Christians are to imitate Christ specifically in his life that led to his death.

    That means that Christians are to lead lives of forgiveness and love for our enemies. And as a rather snappy bumper sticker I read states: “I think when Jesus said to love our enemies he probably meant don’t kill them.”

  2. Ian

    Thank you for your thoughts and your desire to be Christ-centred. That is very important. I won’t post a reply though until you come out from the shadows of anonymity.

  3. Kristine

    If you won’t respond to your anonymous friend, I will. :)

    There is a difference between standing up for yourself and standing up for others. When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek he wasn’t telling us to turn someone else’s cheek for them.

    In the majority of cases, American and Canadian soldiers are fighting not for their own rights and lives – no one is currently oppressing us here in Canada – but rather for the lives of others.

    Proverbs 24:11-12 tells us to “Rescue those being led to death and hold back those staggering toward slaughter” Although it’d be nice if we could just negotiate with oppressors and tell them to stop picking on their victims, sometimes physical force is needed to hold evil people back.

    If it were possible to be a pacifist, I would be. War and bloodshed are never pleasant. But the same passage makes it clear that we can’t just act like we don’t know what’s going on and just let evil continue.

    I for one am very grateful for soldiers who are willing to lay down their own lives to fight for the lives and rights of others. Greater love has no man than this!

    Thanks for your letter, Ian. Well said.


  4. Anonymous


    I am very disturbed by your misuse of scripture. I imagine you know that when Paul says that ‘greater love has no one than this, he is NOT referring to going and killing people. Jesus did not come to kill the Romans who were oppressing and killing God’s people. Nor did he command that we are to do this. Jesus’ life, which is to be the standard for Christians was one that was love to the point of dying for his enemies. Soldiers are not going over to Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere to die BUT to kill. That is not laying down your life, that is laying down someone else’s and Christians should never do that.

    The gospels never give one instance of Jesus sticking up for others by beating or killing anyone. We are so unbelievably oblivious to the historical realities that Jesus faced. Rome was the oppressor. Rome was evil Rome was violent. And some Jews believed that they were to cast off Roman oppression through violence. Jesus did not advocate that, but instead advocated non-violent love for his and other enemies. I think all Christians could benefit from reading Josephus’ Jewish War to get an idea of what things were like in Jesus’ day and to show how religion and politics were not separate for him.

    I see that you want to protect the oppressed. That is good. And it is hard to know what to do about that when people are violent. But I think Jesus’ words AND LIFE trump any other evidence we might marshall for how to live. And if (and I say if) parts of the OT seem to contradict that then so be it – we must follow Jesus. After all, those who cite the OT for evidence for killing people don’t take many other sections of the OT as necessary. If you don’t eat kosher food because you believe Jesus has freed you from those laws, then why not believe that Jesus has freed you from having to resort to violence?

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