“ADAMS, ON ME!”
The two young men sprinted for the trees that marked the side yard of the old Victorian house, footsteps and heavy breathing deafening to their ears. Upon rounding the corner, they dove for the cover of the trees as another sound consumed their hearing: a machine gunner had “squeezed off” his first salvo, but not fast enough. As the air hummed with projectiles, the trees groaning and surrendering their bark, Adams and I couldn’t help but grin at one another, feeling so alive despite the proximity of peril.
“Our turn” mouthed Adams as he leaned around his tree and returned fire upon the well placed and fortified gunner’s nest.
The game was afoot. Our mission: to secure the facility by eliminating all hostiles. Adams and I were one half of the fire-team, tasked with occupying enemy forces on one side of the house while the other half, Jackson and Rea, broke through the far side of the house to break their line. An elegantly simple plan, but it relied upon Adams and I to stay alive while attracting enough attention to draw enemy fire.
“COVER ME! MOVING RIGHT!” Adams immediately leveled his rifle again and put several more rounds downrange to suppress the machine gunner, as I bolted toward the compound’s wall to flank the gunner. As I reached the landlocked ship that provided the cover along the wall, the machine gunner pinned me down again.
Suddenly, there was a break in the fire, and a commotion amongst the hostiles. Peeking around the corner I saw the machine gunner displace and begin to fire upon Jackson, who had just broken through the far side of enemy defenses. “NOW!” I bellowed and broke from cover to take out the gunner. As I ran I let lose a burst from my rifle catching him square in the torso. Upon gaining the nest, I turned and fired upon the last of the enemies, who was fleeing Jackson and Rea, only to be caught in a four-way crossfire in the open and promptly perish. It was all over as fast as it had begun: the mission was accomplished in only thirty-four and a half seconds.
My name is Wesley, and war is my dream, and also my nightmare. I am many things, but in the end, I am a warrior and a son of the King of Peace. This portrait is but a brief expose of who I am.
First: a warrior. For as long as I can remember I have desired to be a soldier and to serve my country honorably like my cousin, uncle and grandfathers. At six I learned what sort of soldier I wanted to be: a United States Marine. This martial ambition, though immature at first, has been greatly tempered by growing maturity as well as my education.
As I have grown, so has my interest in the specifics of war. With September eleventh, and my cousin’s subsequent enlistment in the Marines as dominant landmarks of my childhood, it is little wonder that war was often occupying my mind. This interest and preoccupation led me to more often than not be in my backyard ‘playing army’ which, as I grew older, morphed into my love and enthusiasm for the sport of Airsoft. Airsoft is a sport that consists of mock war games with remarkably realistic model firearms which shoot six millimeter pellets at speeds from one-hundred and fifty to five hundred feet per second. As my friends and I matured both physically and in interest, our gameplay began to attain greater intensity, and our accoutrements greater refinement. Though airsofting is only a sport enjoyed with friends it has served as an excellent catalog of my growth into a man.
When I began airsofting, I had only a spring powered Desert Eagle pistol which was par for the group that I played with. However, as we progressed in skill and equipment, I moved up to a bolt-action, high-powered sniper rifle. Because of the power, effective range, and accuracy of it, I was not required to face my fear of the pain of getting hit. Though I was moderately aggressive upon occasion, ultimately I was more ‘bark than bite’ as the saying goes. My form of leadership was, by default, very directive and placed the onus of action upon others. As I began to mature, however, I realized that what I was truly doing was asking others to do something that I was afraid to do myself. Over the course of a year I went through a metamorphosis of thought and ambition that transcended leisure and sport, but at the same time was mirrored and well exhibited in my form of playing airsoft.
I bought a sub-machinegun style airsoft rifle when I was sixteen and with it, unbeknownst to myself, stepped into a whole new world. As I matured I was taught and realized how leadership must be, at its root, service and by example. These seemingly unconnected events together drastically changed my style of play while airsofting. Not only was I capable of close quarters combat, with my new rifle, but it was actually nearly required of me. As the sub-machinegun type rifle cannot compare to the precision of a sniper rifle, my previous support role was not even an option. This, combined with my growth of courage, and physical ability made me make the great leap from “Adams, go! I’ll cover you!” to “Adams, cover me! I’m going!” Though this much more audacious outlook on airsofting has not been without pain or failure due to it, it is not rashly or unconsidered that I take what may be called a more rash approach to life. It was in a well-rounded education and faith that I found my inspiration.
I was homeschooled from birth through high school, and because of that, I was able to participate in a five-year survey of Western Civilization, literature, and thought. Having read the great works of literature, philosophy, and theology from Homer and Plato to Smith and Lewis, one of the things that was incredibly clear to me was the supremacy of daring over cowardice. Though famously did Virgil once write “fortuna favet fortibus” and Machiavelli did well exposit the claim, lady luck was not the only one with whom I became better acquainted. The linchpin, the cornerstone, the instigator of my transformation and ambition was Jesus Christ.
It was when I truly met Jesus, and committed my life to follow him in earnest, that I learned true courage. As Aristotle once exposited, the absence of fear is foolish and rash, for fear can be appropriate. Courage is having the proper fear, and acting properly anyways (Nicomachean Ethics book lambda). John Wayne once said something of the same sort, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways.” This metamorphosis I went through was, in essence, because I had been given new values, new hope, and new life.
Though I grew bolder and less fearful of the physical pain of getting shot while airsofting, the drastic change in style of play was because of a shift in understanding of leadership, servant hood, and courage. Jesus is the greatest example of leadership by example, for He was a servant and a leader even unto death. So too I, following my Lord, chose to lead by example, and require nothing more of others than what I required of myself. That day, when I rushed the machine gun nest with Adams, I took the initiative, and choose, in spite of fear, to lead and do what needed to be done. I did that, not on my own, but following Jesus’ lead.
Following Jesus, the king of peace, my Lord, is not incongruous with being a warrior, instead, it is perfectly in line. Day by day am I being taught love, leadership, and courage. What better things might a soldier be taught? Because of the hope that He has given me, of resurrection and eternal life, it is now inappropriate for me to fear death for “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Because of the love that He has shown me, I can love others, and truly value human life for all that it is worth. Because of His example, I can lead well: serving.
It is ironic that war is both my nightmare and my dream. It is a nightmare because of the love I have for all humanity. I never wish to kill another human being in my life, but I believe that I may be called up to do just that. If the cause be just, then slay I shall in love of that which is behind and not in hate. But it is also my dream, for I have been given this martial ambition, and the courage and love to execute the duty well.
Maybe one day the story of the gunner’s nest will be true of more than just sport. Maybe one day I may have my terrible dream.
Come, Lord Jesus.