Was thumbing through a news mag the other day—you know, the kind that still comes out on paper, because I’m old-fashioned like that sometimes—and happened upon an article on threats to national security. This picture was randomly used in it.
Solid picture: the American fighting man scanning the hillsides of Afghanistan for hostiles. I was taking a closer look at the weapon, the scope, his gloves, and the overall evolution of the battle kit for our troops even since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when something caught my eye. Something didn’t quite fit the pattern (such as it is) of the camouflage on his kevlar helmet, just above his name tag.
Here, let me blow it up and lighten the color of that area for you…
It might be a uniform violation (really not sure), but Pfc. Ryan Genaw has his priorities right.
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalm 18 KJV)
Reminds me of a song by one of my favorite bands, The Avett Brothers. A song called “In The Curve.” In sum, it’s sung from the perspective of a guy who is driving intoxicated, takes a curve too fast and… “I lost control in the curve / and a gas line broke in the wreck / I walked from the ashes with just a few scratches / my crucifix warm on my neck.” Next verse: “My good Lord was with me tonight / just riding beside me tonight / now we’re just talking, hitchhiking, walking / we’ll see you in Concord tonight.”
Maybe Pfc. Genaw has it as more of a lucky amulet rather than a token and testimonial of faith, but I prefer to take the stronger view. Pfc. Genaw is out there on patrol with his comrades. Given the unpredictability of the locals and roadside bombs and even the spate of Afghan police and military who have turned on their American co-workers and trainers lately, any of those guys on active patrol could catch a bullet or be in the blast of an IED at any time. He’s not taking a walk in the park. What he chooses to include in his battle kit means something.
Fitting, then, that he arms himself with the ultimate sign of the victory of life over death: the image of Christ crucified, the cross that stands revealed as the tree of life. Christ went to his death for all of us so that we might have everlasting life. Our soldiers put their lives on the line and accept the possibility of death so that we might live with the blessings of liberty.
“Greater love hath no man” applies most perfectly to the God-man who laid down his life for all mankind, but it also applies to all others who lay down their lives for their buddies, their families, their friends, and even the countless people they do not know but who live in liberty because of their sacrifices.
May the absurdity of the Cross of Christ—”a stumbling block to Jews and madness to Gentiles” (see: 1 Cor 1:18-25)—provide the spiritual strength for all of our fighting men and women to come through in health and endure the wounds—the ones we can see, but more especially the ones we cannot see that hurt even more and for a longer time.
I hope Pfc. Genaw was helped by that crucifix and his faith in what it means, and I hope the silent witness of its presence on his kevlar aided those around him in that warzone.