Saturday, January 10, 2009

Still-Waged Wars

To my buddies heading out...


A mutual friend of ours [name omitted] asked me to offer you some words of encouragement as you ready for your deployment. I was initially flattered, but now, a day later, it occurs to me that I really don’t have much to say. You’re going to a combat zone. I don’t think anything I could think up would send you packing with a smile on your face and any heartfelt exuberance. The fact is, it’s a combat deployment, not a vacation. I will say, however, that I’ve been there – three times, actually, which probably counts for something.

When I first left, I did the standard goodbyes with my family and friends, yet I was almost afraid to be too sincere about it, lest I jinx the whole thing and lessen my odds of returning. Stupid, perhaps, but it made sense to me at the time. And, of course, I did come back, and ended up deploying two more times. Just tell them all that you love them, and make sure to reiterate it while you’re overseas. I’ve reached the conclusion that deployments are harder on your family than they are on you. You’re busy, usually, but all they can do is think about you being gone and how much danger you’re in, and then wring their hands helplessly.

Believe it or not, there are people in the states who want nothing more than to support you – in full. Whether it be food, books, coffee, even mission essential gear that you can’t get through supply. They’re willing, and eager to provide you with it. And pray for you. You don’t have to worry about writing back any lengthy thank you letter, because they never expect much. They know you’re thankful, and they also know you’re busy. Just knowing you received it is enough.

People are also praying for you – and you can add me to that list. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never met you; what you’re doing is challenging, fun, tragic, and difficult to relate to. But I can relate, so this is what I will pray for you:

That above all else, you will take God with you as you leave. That when you speak to your subordinates, friends and superiors, it’s evident that your confidence rests not in the tactical abilities of your unit, but ultimately in Him – in the preservation of your spirit over your physical being.

That when you speak and when you act, they would all see God in you. Not you.

That you will remain heartened to your mission – not necessarily viewing it as noble struggle for your country, but as an opportunity to ensure the success, wellbeing and safe return of your subordinates and peers. I am confident that God honors such character; since Christ Himself exhibited such traits.

That you will have the boldness to adhere to what is right and to stand before your superiors and advocate your troops And that also you would remain simultaneously humble enough to listen to those beneath you with a genuine concern for them as men, Americans, and fellow servicemembers.

That as you miss your loved ones that you would grow exponentially closer to them and pray for them.

That you will be successful in your missions, bringing you and others one small step closer to returning home permanently, and victoriously.

That you would recognize that God does not honor perfection, but that He honors pursuit of Him – no matter how faulty we may be. That failure, should it be encountered, is not a termination of your value to Him, but further opportunity to cling tightly to the hem of His garment and revel in His enduring grace.

That you would grow – as men, as leaders, as children of God, and as followers of Christ. That your witness would also grow, before your fellow troops and before your family. That what you learn, you would never forget.

That should you be taken, your rest confidently in your swift transport to His hall of saints and kings, and His sweet embrace. And that this does not happen until the allotted time – far from now.

And I will pray for your quick return to a country you will love all the more. God speed, and keep your head down. When you come back, I owe you a beer. Thank you for your service, brother.

Warmest Regards,

Ben Shaw
(OIFs II-VII, USMC Infantry)


  1. You have expressed a farewell to deployed commrades in a very meaningful message. Thank you Ben.

    Today I recieved word from a friend that her son is on his way to Afghanistan. I have forwarded on your words of encouragment and comfort on to her.

    I think you speak for all of us back home that we are so blessed to live in this great country and we are very grateful to those who volunteer to put themselves in harms way to preserve our freedom.

    All of you out there who are on their way to far away lands, please remember that even though we may never meet, your service to our country means more to me that I could ever express in this message. God bless each one of you and thank you.

  2. Second the motion.

  3. Great letter and I echo Sarah's thoughts.