A sad truth for today: I have maybe the best, most timely and important post of my blogging tenure… and I can’t publish it.
It’s not my story to tell. It’s a word from a good friend of mine, a (well-decorated) military chaplain recently returned from a deployment in the Middle East. I asked this friend today to share some perspective on the POTUS Tweet (never a legit, checks and balances legislation, but always a damn middle school moment in 140 characters or less). Anyway, I asked my friend to share a professional, boots-on-the-ground account of what this decision means, and who are the actual real human people who will be affected by it.
And this friend of mine wrote a powerful, timely, get-you-in-the-gut account of what pastoral care looked like today, on active duty; in a tent alongside a transgender soldier who’s been faithfully serving his country for years. And now leaves with nothing.
Trouble is–the Army won’t let us share this story. What many civilians don’t realize is that
“as an officer, I raised my right hand in an oath to the American people, the Constitution and the President. That means taking a vow to remain apolitical. I take this charge seriously. All lawful orders must be obeyed. It is not our role to engage in political rhetoric or activism against the policies of the military or any acting President. The irony of the military is understood; we waive our right to freedom of speech in order to protect that same right for our citizens. Ultimately, most of the things I’d like to say will have to be left unsaid. That’s the way it is. I knew the rules going into this branch of service. Like many kindred chaplains, I will have to channel all of my energies into the one thing I am able to do: bear witness to the pain of one of God’s children.”
So we don’t get the story. The inside-account, heart-rending glimpse of the actual people who get sent home now. Who maybe never belonged back home, and found their first true belonging among comrades in arms. We don’t get the account of the officers/chaplains/pastors who care for these soldiers, who now send them on their way with maybe a blessing and a thin wafer of communion bread, wondering/hoping/praying that there will be life and hope and love for them elsewhere.
I will share this one word from my friend though–a glimpse of the rest of the story, but maybe the most important takeaway–for those who are serving active duty, and those of us at home:
“As chaplains, we often break down our role in this way: nurture the living, care for the wounded, honor the dead. I said a little prayer while lacing up my boots today; it was time to care for the wounded.”
Now. Go and do likewise. While these folks, regardless of gender identity, are out there sacrificing their free speech to protect ours–lace up, and go care for the wounded.