NINE September is a day of reflection for me for several reasons.
On 9/11, I found out that: 1. I really was a Marine; 2. I was willing to die for my country; and 3. Islam is in fact not only a religion of peace, but the truth.
Most people have no problem with 1 and 2 when I ordinarily re-tell this story, but number 3 is always met with hostility. Without going into the story again as I have a thousand times, I just want to cover the main points.
1. When I joined the Marine Corps in 1998 it was a different world per se. Most of my peers joined the military as an alternative to staying home or not going to college. Many like me joined the Marine Corps simply to be part of the best military organization on the planet (sorry Army). However, that was it in a nutshell. There were no dreams of war and combat no matter how much warrior training I had. It was good stuff to know, it felt good to know I could if I wanted to, but I was content behind my desk and flying with (former) President Clinton to the Harley David factory in Pennsylvania or to South Beach, Miami. That was the extent of my career until 9/11. That day, I found out that I truly was a Marine, that day the warrior in me came alive and I wanted nothing more than to fight the scum that dared attack the USA the greatest nation on Earth!. That day I found out that even a bunch of spoiled, presidential, airwingers, were still Marines and we were ready to go and do what Marines do. That day that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor took over and the true warrior that I didn’t even know existed came alive. That day more than any other day, I was a Marine!
2. Given the gravity of the day, I knew something had to be done. I didn’t know what, but I knew it had to be something. I began to think of all the medal of honor winners who gave their lives in the service of others. I never truly understood that, but on 9/11 something came over me. I knew that if fanatical killers were willing to do this, than I had to be equally willing to do whatever it took to defeat them. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew one thing, if I had to die, I wanted it to be in the service of my country. I never felt that way before, on 9/10, I wore a uniform, but it was just a “job” to a degree, but on 9/11 I swore by that uniform and what Marines have lived and died for and was ready to join their ranks if need be. I remember around 10 a.m. before the base phones shut down calling my mother and she answered crying, the most I could muster was “Mom I love you, tell everyone I love them, but now I have to do what I get paid to do” right there out of nowhere in one line I told my mother that our conversation may have been the last, and in that moment of clarity there was peace. I knew what had to be done and I truly didn’t care about the costs, as long as America won.
3. This has always been the most difficult thing to explain and it still is. On 9/11, we were on “standby” for more than 14 hours. We didn’t see any “action” and we just hurried up and waited, and waited, and waited, and then it was 9/12. As things started to develop and get sorted out after that horrible day, I began to reflect. Mostly about 1 and 2, but then I began to ask myself questions: Who were these people that did this? Why would they do this? Are their beliefs that crazy that they are willing to kill themselves and many others for it? I asked myself these questions over and over. My only solution was research. I wanted to know my enemy so that I may be better prepared to kill them. As a devout Christian, lay leader, bible study leader, etc. I wanted to see this murderous book for myself so that I may be able to inform my friends, group, and congregation. I never met a Muslim in my life all I knew was the church, so I decided to go straight to the horses mouth…the Qur’an.
As things were eased on the base in the following days, I decided to go to the bookstore and I bought it a Qur’an. My first one, it was in complete English; no Arabic in sight. So with a scornful look and disdain in my heart I began to read…The very first thing I read was: The Opening (Al-Fatiha)
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:
Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe.
The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
King of the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help
Guide us to the straight way;
The way of those whom you have blessed, not of those who have deserved anger, nor of those who stray.
In the name of God, the Most Gracious and Merciful! What in the world! I thought I’m supposed to be reading about killing Christians in the name of some other god or something. Where’s all the violence and advocating of such against America? This opening, sounded much like my prayers, so I began to read on…
To be continued next week