Iraq Invaded Kuwait 30 Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Today there is an initiative to build a memorial to commemorate and honor those who, as members of the Armed Forces, served on active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield. I was on beach in Florida that day in 1990 on a weekend Air Force trip when I heard of the invasion. I had no idea then how much that snippet of information would affect my life.

Logo+on+black+lo+resIn the summer of 1990, I was a newly married 23-year-old, preparing for what would be my fourth year of a five-year aerospace/mechanical engineering curriculum at the University at Buffalo. I had enlisted in the US Air Force Reserve the year before. My career goal was to fly planes. I’d get experience around aircraft as a C-130 cargo plan mechanic, then move to a pilot position flying something (I wasn’t sure what) once I had my undergraduate degree.

The reserve seemed like a great safe path to that experience, all while earning great money for part-time work. I volunteered for as many weekend trips as I could, as they paid well and were informative and fun. If there ever was a war, which I was sure there wouldn’t be because the Soviet Union had crumbled, we may be activated to fill in for the full timers that would go overseas to fight. But there wouldn’t be a war.

Wrong.

When the situation escalated to where we were sending troops overseas, slowly I realized that our unit could be activated, likely for stateside service. I wouldn’t be pleased about the inconvenience of putting off my college degree. I was eager to start being a full-time breadwinner. But if duty called, I’d respond.

Early in my college career, prior to joining the reserves, I had a conversation with a friend. He said that if there ever was a war that brought back the draft, he’d go to Canada. I couldn’t agree. I felt back then, as I do today, that so many of the blessings in my life were a direct result of the freedoms we have, fought for by many, some who paid the ultimate price. If my turn came, I’d go and pay my dues, I said with the confidence that it would never happen.

It did.

The message on the answering machine that late September day in 1990 was short and simple: I had a few days to report for duty for overseas assignment. Tears welled up in my wife’s eyes, and she asked, “What does it mean?” I didn’t have an answer, but I tried to be the rock I thought I had to be. “I guess I’ll be going on a three-month vacation to the land of the sand,” I said.

The truth is, I didn’t have to go. I could have pushed for a deferment because of my college status, as a few in our unit did. I never seriously considered that. I had made a commitment, and I would honor it.

That would become one of, if not the strongest defining moment in my life.

Desert Shield, and then Desert Storm, permanently shaped my life path and my perspectives. Some changes were good, some not-so-good. That’s life. Our characters are tested daily. I’d like to think that I have been more true to my character with every test partially because of my decision to not defer.

When we returned home from Desert Storm, it was flags and yellow ribbons everywhere. Americans were united. The mood of the country was good, and the ghosts of Vietnam had finally largely been put to rest (though some will always remain). That was the United States that encouraged me to serve.

Things are a lot different today.

I don’t know how it happened, though I, like everybody, have theories. I don’t have to tell anyone who was an adult then that we are more divided now than in 1991, or maybe in almost any time on our country’s history. If you don’t agree with the other side, your thoughts, positions, morality, and even standing of a human being are often questioned, if not completely berated. How did we come to this place?

I have experienced this firsthand, especially on Facebook (see my last blog post). I feel that I have lost my right to express my opinion. This is a topic for another post, another day. People are openly posting statements that are so blatantly full of hate. The worst part? I doubt that many, if not most can even see the hate. They take the worst possible aspect of the side they don’t like (you name the issue – politics, COVID, etc.) and automatically assume that if you don’t agree with them, you are the worst of the other side. And if that doesn’t work, the fallback is “if you’re silent, you’re complacent.”No middle ground, no consideration of discussion.

The United States of 1990 was one of differences, yes, but also one of compromise. We have lost much of the ability to discuss issues in a civil manner. Just open any news site. This is a very dangerous situation. Without discussion, divisions will widen. Our republic’s continuing existence isn’t guaranteed. It must be constantly attended to.

I haven’t lost all hope. If I were called back to defend the United States, I would serve, in whatever capacity I could. I love this country. I bleed red, white, and blue. But it won’t happen without fundamental changes in everyone’s hearts. And I believe that won’t happen without prayer. Lots of it. Honest, fervent, passionate.

God bless the USA.

The National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial is a new national monument that has been approved by Congress and President Trump (March 2017) to be built by 2021 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Visit http://www.ndswm.org/ for more information. Image from http://www.ndswm.org/

Christian Bible = Fiction?

Today I received a response to a tweet, a snippet of a review of my Christian novel Leaving Darkness – “This is a very nice book of Christian fiction.” The response: “Christian Bible = fiction.” aaron-burden-113284-unsplash

My first reaction was “is that really necessary” but then I realized the opportunity to discuss something I’ve been wanting to address for some time.

I have found that many non-believers require evidence of the truth of the Bible first if they will accept it as God’s word. I get that. I’m a science nerd, grew up big on astronomy, and hold a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Information Systems Project Management. Postulate theory, then prove said theory to establish fact – the scientific method.

Some may argue that the Bible has passed analysis in many disciplines. A few examples off the top of my head include the discovery of archaeological finds in the Middle East, the Shroud of Turin, the Crown of Thorns (recently in the news because of the Notre Dame fire).  Others may argue the opposite – the archaeological findings only show that historically there may have been a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Shroud of Turin has been carbon-dated to the middle ages, the Crown of Thorns came out of nowhere hundreds of years after the Crucifixion – valid, well-thought out arguments to disprove the Bible.

Here’s the issue as I see it though – you cannot, and will never find conclusive proof if you begin on the foundation of “prove it to me.” From John 20:29: “29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Yes, John goes on to note that Jesus performed many other miracles as “proof”: “30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” However, that returns to the circular argument that if you do not believe the Bible is truth, then you won’t believe what John wrote about those signs Jesus performed as proof.

The bottom line as I see it: you first need faith, then you shall find proof, not the other way around. If you begin to read the Bible to find proof first, you won’t. But if you approach the Bible with an open mind and heart that the truth may lay within, you will. For me, as I’ve grown in faith, I see tangible proof of the truth of the Bible daily.

Now, I’m not going to profess I understand all of the Bible – I don’t. Jonah in the belly of the whale? Hard to swallow (pun intended). Talking donkey? Pretty difficult to accept based on scientific knowledge alone. That’s where faith helps to augment – not replace – lack of understanding. An interesting observation though is the stronger my faith becomes, the more I see the proof that skeptics seek but cannot see.

I respect and understand the view of the responder to my tweet and appreciate the opportunity to expand on my faith. I also welcome respectful responses to this post. What do you think? Does beginning with a walk of faith and an open heart lead to conviction of biblical truths, or does the The Christian Bible = fiction?

NIV Bible quotes from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash