The Vocation of Military Service

In honor of Veterans’ Day and to salute those who served in the military, I would like to hear from those of you who are veterans.  How did military service impact your life?  What did it do for your character, personality, beliefs, etc.?  Those of you who have been in combat, did you come out of that traumatized or stronger or a bit of both or what?  (All of this has to do with the military as vocation.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dennis Voss

    I served for 26 years in the Air Force (active duty all the time). I started in 1970 and flew over Vietnam in my trusty C-130. I don’t know that my service had great impact on my life. Perhaps made me stronger. Having started on a farm in Minnesota, who knows.
    Military service did lead me to many places and many opportunities to serve not only my country, but my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After I retired from the Air Force, I attended Concordia Theological Seminary of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It seems that that was where God was leading me all along.
    I am thankful for having the opportunity to serve, both my country and Lord, and now full time my Lord.

  • Dennis Voss

    I served for 26 years in the Air Force (active duty all the time). I started in 1970 and flew over Vietnam in my trusty C-130. I don’t know that my service had great impact on my life. Perhaps made me stronger. Having started on a farm in Minnesota, who knows.
    Military service did lead me to many places and many opportunities to serve not only my country, but my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After I retired from the Air Force, I attended Concordia Theological Seminary of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It seems that that was where God was leading me all along.
    I am thankful for having the opportunity to serve, both my country and Lord, and now full time my Lord.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I didn’t serve, but my father did, 20 years in the Air Force. I know it took its toll, particularly when he was pulling alert duty with the B-52 crews. I remember him saying he was happy to never have to do the job he was paid to do, he was the guy with his finger on the pickle switch at a time when our bombers were routinely loaded with nuclear weapons. He missed out on Vietnam because he was trained on the newer model and by the time he finished, we were pulling out. My grandfather served in WW2 (Navy) and Korea (FAA?), and my brother – in – law is active duty Army (2 tours).

    All I can say is thanks.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I didn’t serve, but my father did, 20 years in the Air Force. I know it took its toll, particularly when he was pulling alert duty with the B-52 crews. I remember him saying he was happy to never have to do the job he was paid to do, he was the guy with his finger on the pickle switch at a time when our bombers were routinely loaded with nuclear weapons. He missed out on Vietnam because he was trained on the newer model and by the time he finished, we were pulling out. My grandfather served in WW2 (Navy) and Korea (FAA?), and my brother – in – law is active duty Army (2 tours).

    All I can say is thanks.

  • http://ondrock.blogspot.com Craig Barnett

    Serving in the military as a Christian presents a multitude of opportunities to show forth the love and grace of Christ to many who might otherwise never be exposed to it. I am a battalion commander in the U.S. Marine Corps, currently training up my battalion for deployment to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011. I made it known from the beginning about my faith. I have prayed that the way I lead would show the qualities of Jesus Christ to my Marines, who I know are watching. I try to balance justice and mercy in my disciplinary measures. I use my battalion chaplain as a proxy to share the gospel more specifically. I have given him a free hand to use any excuse to share the gospel with anyone who comes to him for counseling. I pray continually for the members of my battalion, that God would call many to faith in him. The military is a mission field. I pray that my service here will be fruitful.

  • http://ondrock.blogspot.com Craig Barnett

    Serving in the military as a Christian presents a multitude of opportunities to show forth the love and grace of Christ to many who might otherwise never be exposed to it. I am a battalion commander in the U.S. Marine Corps, currently training up my battalion for deployment to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011. I made it known from the beginning about my faith. I have prayed that the way I lead would show the qualities of Jesus Christ to my Marines, who I know are watching. I try to balance justice and mercy in my disciplinary measures. I use my battalion chaplain as a proxy to share the gospel more specifically. I have given him a free hand to use any excuse to share the gospel with anyone who comes to him for counseling. I pray continually for the members of my battalion, that God would call many to faith in him. The military is a mission field. I pray that my service here will be fruitful.

  • Dru

    First, I greatly respect those who serve, I have many friends who are still in the military and their commitment and sacrifice for our country is commendable. I frequently brag about there service. As for me, I was an enlisted man in the Navy for 4 years and …hated it. The military and me didn’t “mesh” and as a result of laziness and lack of self control I was a horrible witness to boot. I got out just after 9-11 and as I was sitting in medical, waiting for my check-out physical, watching the planes crash in to the World Trade Center, my first thought was, “Oh no, they’re not going to let me out are they.” They did, but I deeply regret this attitude, and often reflect on my service sorrowfully.
    However, were it not for the Navy, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with my “5 attributes of my dream job” list. And, because God is good and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, the first job I got out of the service had all of my attributes; and I’ve been doing it ever since.

  • Dru

    First, I greatly respect those who serve, I have many friends who are still in the military and their commitment and sacrifice for our country is commendable. I frequently brag about there service. As for me, I was an enlisted man in the Navy for 4 years and …hated it. The military and me didn’t “mesh” and as a result of laziness and lack of self control I was a horrible witness to boot. I got out just after 9-11 and as I was sitting in medical, waiting for my check-out physical, watching the planes crash in to the World Trade Center, my first thought was, “Oh no, they’re not going to let me out are they.” They did, but I deeply regret this attitude, and often reflect on my service sorrowfully.
    However, were it not for the Navy, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with my “5 attributes of my dream job” list. And, because God is good and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, the first job I got out of the service had all of my attributes; and I’ve been doing it ever since.

  • Porcell

    My service as a Marine officer was the perfect compliment to a fine college education. My father insisted that I join the Marines; he was right. Being taken strictly to task by a tough sergeant at Quantico is just the right thing for a proud college fellow. I regard this military experience as the most salutary part of life.

    The military is chalk full of people of excellent character who work hard and are willing to sacrifice. I served in the late fifties with men who had fought at Guadalcanal, Iwo, and Okinawa among other places. Many of them were badly scarred by the war, though none of them whined about it. All of them were patriotic to the core. Some of them were seriously religious, though none of them wore this on their sleeve.

    Too bad that more young people in America don’t experience military life, though from the point of the military, the present system of able volunteers is a boon, as it automatically removes the chaff from the lower echelons that used to cause many problems.

    Semper Fi!

  • Porcell

    My service as a Marine officer was the perfect compliment to a fine college education. My father insisted that I join the Marines; he was right. Being taken strictly to task by a tough sergeant at Quantico is just the right thing for a proud college fellow. I regard this military experience as the most salutary part of life.

    The military is chalk full of people of excellent character who work hard and are willing to sacrifice. I served in the late fifties with men who had fought at Guadalcanal, Iwo, and Okinawa among other places. Many of them were badly scarred by the war, though none of them whined about it. All of them were patriotic to the core. Some of them were seriously religious, though none of them wore this on their sleeve.

    Too bad that more young people in America don’t experience military life, though from the point of the military, the present system of able volunteers is a boon, as it automatically removes the chaff from the lower echelons that used to cause many problems.

    Semper Fi!

  • Porcell

    Sorry , in the above it ought to have been complement.

  • Porcell

    Sorry , in the above it ought to have been complement.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Exile

    My father was in the navy for 20 years, so I am a “navy brat.” We lived in Misawa, Japan for three years when I was in elementary school. Living on a military base had a tremendous effect on my family. For one, we were isolated from our own families and culture, so it bound us together tightly. I loved that all kids at school were “the new kid” and that school was easy to adjust to there. We learned that God created a rainbow of children and were exposed to many different cultures. We were also very patriotic. Whenever the Star Spangled Banner played on the radio, we had to stop the car, stop whatever we were doing and stand up, find a flag and stand in reverence. I learned what it meant to be a “hated American.” There were riots in the streets against the base. I remember asking my father why they hated us so much. He told me about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The hadn’t forgotten. I learned about war and hate.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Exile

    My father was in the navy for 20 years, so I am a “navy brat.” We lived in Misawa, Japan for three years when I was in elementary school. Living on a military base had a tremendous effect on my family. For one, we were isolated from our own families and culture, so it bound us together tightly. I loved that all kids at school were “the new kid” and that school was easy to adjust to there. We learned that God created a rainbow of children and were exposed to many different cultures. We were also very patriotic. Whenever the Star Spangled Banner played on the radio, we had to stop the car, stop whatever we were doing and stand up, find a flag and stand in reverence. I learned what it meant to be a “hated American.” There were riots in the streets against the base. I remember asking my father why they hated us so much. He told me about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The hadn’t forgotten. I learned about war and hate.

  • Pete

    I am very thankful to the US Army, which payed my way through medical school (my school was, at the time, the second most expensive medical school in the country) and then trained me to be a surgeon. I payed Uncle Sam back with four years at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Worthless Trivia: Fort Riley, a cavalry post, was the origin of the phrase “life of Riley”. Between wars, it was always a plum to be stationed there where polo and other equestrian pursuits abounded.) I echo all the sentiments expressed above, although the Medical Corps (particularly in peacetime) was not exactly the “real Army”.
    I’m also thankful to the US Air Force which provided my son with a valuable undergraduate degree from the Air Force Academy last year. He’s currently serving at Ramstein Air Base, Germany where, according to CNN today, he may have been served lunch by the First Lady.

  • Pete

    I am very thankful to the US Army, which payed my way through medical school (my school was, at the time, the second most expensive medical school in the country) and then trained me to be a surgeon. I payed Uncle Sam back with four years at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Worthless Trivia: Fort Riley, a cavalry post, was the origin of the phrase “life of Riley”. Between wars, it was always a plum to be stationed there where polo and other equestrian pursuits abounded.) I echo all the sentiments expressed above, although the Medical Corps (particularly in peacetime) was not exactly the “real Army”.
    I’m also thankful to the US Air Force which provided my son with a valuable undergraduate degree from the Air Force Academy last year. He’s currently serving at Ramstein Air Base, Germany where, according to CNN today, he may have been served lunch by the First Lady.

  • ELB

    Hmmm. Only 8 comments? It doesn’t surprise me. With a family full (father, 2 sons, son-in-law) of vets (I am not) I observe that the questions you ask are the kind they would answer only in conversation at the deepest level. And somone having heard such answers would hardly break trust to reveal them.

    Good questions, though.

  • ELB

    Hmmm. Only 8 comments? It doesn’t surprise me. With a family full (father, 2 sons, son-in-law) of vets (I am not) I observe that the questions you ask are the kind they would answer only in conversation at the deepest level. And somone having heard such answers would hardly break trust to reveal them.

    Good questions, though.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    I do not exaggerate when I say that my time in the Air National Guard helped shape me into the man I am today. I went places and did things I could not have done under any other circumstances and served with some of the finest human beings I have ever met. In doing those things and in working with those people, I learned the dedication, determination, and problem solving skills I now apply to my current pursuits.

    I know I sound like a recruiting commercial, but I know that, for some people, military service can become a gateway to even greater things, and I believe it was for me.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    I do not exaggerate when I say that my time in the Air National Guard helped shape me into the man I am today. I went places and did things I could not have done under any other circumstances and served with some of the finest human beings I have ever met. In doing those things and in working with those people, I learned the dedication, determination, and problem solving skills I now apply to my current pursuits.

    I know I sound like a recruiting commercial, but I know that, for some people, military service can become a gateway to even greater things, and I believe it was for me.

  • http://www.utah-Lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I was in the Air Force for four years active duty, and then some time in a Guard Unit, and a few years as a Chaplain Candidate. So how did it impact me? Too many ways to count. It exposed me to areas of life I would not have known, good and bad. It gave me opportunity to travel, and generally develop and appreciation for a life of culture, but it doesn’t have that effect on everyone.
    It exposed me to other christian denominations, and therefore convinced me to become a pastor as I saw people go to church Sunday after Sunday and never hear the gospel. Protestantism and Catholicism are generally bereft of the gospel in my experience, rarely do you hear among all the pc palatitudes of the liberals, or the haranguing of conservatives anything about Christ dying for the sins of the world.
    It also gave me discipline. Not to mention they sent me to the best leadership schools in the world as a chaplain candidate. Skills learned there that serve me well as a pastor and circuit counselor for the larges geographical circuit in the synod, Utah, it encompasses all of it.
    I didn’t see combat though I worked in support of combat operations for the majority of my time enlisted. I was at Aviano during the Yugoslavian debacle. No trauma. Though I had friends who ultimately left because they couldn’t reconcile being Christian with being in the military. And that is sad. Vocation, and the vocation of being a soldier need to be taught better by our churches. There are many in the military that just feel trapped by their job, and do it though they think it is wrong., fifth comandment and all. And the chaplains don’t often help with that. Synod would do well to reprint Luther’s treatise on Christians being Soldiers when they put together their little books for the military and I never understand why they don’t. Torks me really.

  • http://www.utah-Lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I was in the Air Force for four years active duty, and then some time in a Guard Unit, and a few years as a Chaplain Candidate. So how did it impact me? Too many ways to count. It exposed me to areas of life I would not have known, good and bad. It gave me opportunity to travel, and generally develop and appreciation for a life of culture, but it doesn’t have that effect on everyone.
    It exposed me to other christian denominations, and therefore convinced me to become a pastor as I saw people go to church Sunday after Sunday and never hear the gospel. Protestantism and Catholicism are generally bereft of the gospel in my experience, rarely do you hear among all the pc palatitudes of the liberals, or the haranguing of conservatives anything about Christ dying for the sins of the world.
    It also gave me discipline. Not to mention they sent me to the best leadership schools in the world as a chaplain candidate. Skills learned there that serve me well as a pastor and circuit counselor for the larges geographical circuit in the synod, Utah, it encompasses all of it.
    I didn’t see combat though I worked in support of combat operations for the majority of my time enlisted. I was at Aviano during the Yugoslavian debacle. No trauma. Though I had friends who ultimately left because they couldn’t reconcile being Christian with being in the military. And that is sad. Vocation, and the vocation of being a soldier need to be taught better by our churches. There are many in the military that just feel trapped by their job, and do it though they think it is wrong., fifth comandment and all. And the chaplains don’t often help with that. Synod would do well to reprint Luther’s treatise on Christians being Soldiers when they put together their little books for the military and I never understand why they don’t. Torks me really.

  • Norman Teigen

    I was a DIV (draft induced volunteer). I was an unmarried high school English teacher and observed my 26th birthday in basic combat training.

    I had grave doubts about the Vietnam War. My late father, a professor of Lutheran theology, suggested that I read Luther on ‘Whether Soldiers Can Be Saved.” I also read Judge Wyszanski’s piece in The Atlantic Monthly on military service.

    From both of these sources, religious and secular, I came up with the idea that a refusalmto serve based on subjective perceptions would be a social and religious error.

    I served because the morality of service was not compromised by the confusion of the war itself.

    I believe that the war was a mistake.

    Vietnam has totally influenced me in a way that I am still not able describe or comprehend.

    My view of the world was forever changed by my experience.

    I was not a combat soldier. I was a REMF. My REMFness does not entitle me to anything other than a recognition that I served when my country called.

    I have the greatest respect and admiration for those who served in combat and wear the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

  • Norman Teigen

    I was a DIV (draft induced volunteer). I was an unmarried high school English teacher and observed my 26th birthday in basic combat training.

    I had grave doubts about the Vietnam War. My late father, a professor of Lutheran theology, suggested that I read Luther on ‘Whether Soldiers Can Be Saved.” I also read Judge Wyszanski’s piece in The Atlantic Monthly on military service.

    From both of these sources, religious and secular, I came up with the idea that a refusalmto serve based on subjective perceptions would be a social and religious error.

    I served because the morality of service was not compromised by the confusion of the war itself.

    I believe that the war was a mistake.

    Vietnam has totally influenced me in a way that I am still not able describe or comprehend.

    My view of the world was forever changed by my experience.

    I was not a combat soldier. I was a REMF. My REMFness does not entitle me to anything other than a recognition that I served when my country called.

    I have the greatest respect and admiration for those who served in combat and wear the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

  • morgan

    i served in the united states army for fifteen years as a cavalry scout. i left the service in 1992 in the wake of the end of the cold war and operations desert shield/storm.

    my unit, 3rd brigade, 1st armored division, deployed to the gulf in december, 1990. while there, i was assigned as the brigade tac ncoic, and had responsibility for the brigade commander and brigade s3′s m2a2 bradley fighting vehicles, an m1a1 abrams tank, and the air force alo’s m113 armored personnel carrier.

    the 3rd brigade, as a part of the us vii corps (cdr, ltg fred franks), was a part of the now famous “left hook” of gen schwartzkopf. our mission was to out flank most iraqi forces through to their west and become the “anvil” to the hammer of the multi-national forces that assaulted due north into kuwait.

    i participated in four battles (one of which was a night battle against republican guard forces). the brigade commander fought and maneuvered the brigade from the front, and from my m2a2 “bulldog 66″.

    the brigade lost four m1a1 tanks during the night battle, a relatively small number of wounded, and none kia. we, however, destroyed literally hundreds of iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles and equipment during the four-day ground war phase. i n ever pulled the trigger while aiming at a human target.

    all of the surrendering iraqi pw’s and civilians fleeing the fighting with whom i came into contact, received a bottle of water and an mre from me and my crew, and were pointed to the rear of our fast attacking brigade. i apologize that some of the mre’s contained pork.

    during the six-plus months of arrival, desert shield, air campaign, and finally the ground war portion, the event that stands out most in my mind was being baptized in the saudi arabian desert, in the presbyterian manner, by an african-american national baptist chaplain, in the company of a small group of soldiers including my brigade commander. God gave me the strength through through the words of psalm 91 to face significant adversity and risk in combat, yet come through with a clear mind, no trauma, and deeper faith in Jesus Christ.

    shortly after returning to germany from the gulf war, my wife and i decided to leave the army (as a senior non-commissioned officer only five years from retirement), and begin new lives.

    after serving three tours in germany, one in korea, and many challenging and exciting assignments and deployments capped by participation in the gulf war, God has richly blessed my wife and i with two loving, home schooled children (now 16 and 12), a wonderful pca church family, a rewarding career (i’ve been with my current employer for almost 13 years), and a wealth of appreciation of the Redeemer Who, while i was yet a sinner, lived perfectly and died horribly for me at calvary.

    may the Lord continue to bless you gene and your ministry.

  • morgan

    i served in the united states army for fifteen years as a cavalry scout. i left the service in 1992 in the wake of the end of the cold war and operations desert shield/storm.

    my unit, 3rd brigade, 1st armored division, deployed to the gulf in december, 1990. while there, i was assigned as the brigade tac ncoic, and had responsibility for the brigade commander and brigade s3′s m2a2 bradley fighting vehicles, an m1a1 abrams tank, and the air force alo’s m113 armored personnel carrier.

    the 3rd brigade, as a part of the us vii corps (cdr, ltg fred franks), was a part of the now famous “left hook” of gen schwartzkopf. our mission was to out flank most iraqi forces through to their west and become the “anvil” to the hammer of the multi-national forces that assaulted due north into kuwait.

    i participated in four battles (one of which was a night battle against republican guard forces). the brigade commander fought and maneuvered the brigade from the front, and from my m2a2 “bulldog 66″.

    the brigade lost four m1a1 tanks during the night battle, a relatively small number of wounded, and none kia. we, however, destroyed literally hundreds of iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles and equipment during the four-day ground war phase. i n ever pulled the trigger while aiming at a human target.

    all of the surrendering iraqi pw’s and civilians fleeing the fighting with whom i came into contact, received a bottle of water and an mre from me and my crew, and were pointed to the rear of our fast attacking brigade. i apologize that some of the mre’s contained pork.

    during the six-plus months of arrival, desert shield, air campaign, and finally the ground war portion, the event that stands out most in my mind was being baptized in the saudi arabian desert, in the presbyterian manner, by an african-american national baptist chaplain, in the company of a small group of soldiers including my brigade commander. God gave me the strength through through the words of psalm 91 to face significant adversity and risk in combat, yet come through with a clear mind, no trauma, and deeper faith in Jesus Christ.

    shortly after returning to germany from the gulf war, my wife and i decided to leave the army (as a senior non-commissioned officer only five years from retirement), and begin new lives.

    after serving three tours in germany, one in korea, and many challenging and exciting assignments and deployments capped by participation in the gulf war, God has richly blessed my wife and i with two loving, home schooled children (now 16 and 12), a wonderful pca church family, a rewarding career (i’ve been with my current employer for almost 13 years), and a wealth of appreciation of the Redeemer Who, while i was yet a sinner, lived perfectly and died horribly for me at calvary.

    may the Lord continue to bless you gene and your ministry.

  • Richard

    Bror’s comments are spot on. Vocation needs to be taught in our churches–and in our military. I served with the military for almost 2o years and regularly attended Army military chapels overseas. I never ONCE heard a sermon on the vocation of a soldier. I attribute at least some of the depression/suicide rates of soldiers to the fact this doctrine is not being taught at all by people connected with our military. Dr Veith–please help. Soldiers need to hear this.

  • Richard

    Bror’s comments are spot on. Vocation needs to be taught in our churches–and in our military. I served with the military for almost 2o years and regularly attended Army military chapels overseas. I never ONCE heard a sermon on the vocation of a soldier. I attribute at least some of the depression/suicide rates of soldiers to the fact this doctrine is not being taught at all by people connected with our military. Dr Veith–please help. Soldiers need to hear this.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    7 years Army. Bad chaplains abound….

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    7 years Army. Bad chaplains abound….


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