Too Religious for the U.S. Army
It has been 24 years since my honorable discharge from the US Army. It would probably stun frequent visitors to our websites to know that I was once considered too religious for Uncle Sam’s Army! The problem got exasperated unto the point that the decision makers decided to cut my military service time 14 months short.
I recall the time like it was yesterday. Looking back, I think that much of the conflict could of and should have been AVOIDABLE. The problem wasn’t with my performance as a soldier. I had attained the E-4 rank in only 11 months and had many papers of achievements in my files. The trouble was my living for the Lord had upset several of my superiors that found religion disgusting.
My E-7 superior did whatever he could to make my life miserable and another Christian whom was a Major that knew of the situation went to bat for me! It was a military “ping-pong” match between the faithful and the heathen. After the Lieutenant grilled me and “took away my First Amendment rights” I wrote my congressman! This action resulted with my eventual discharge.
These type of conflicts can go both ways, but in the end all of this is very costly for the military. Ex-Minister as an organization thinks it could help to find solutions to these types of problems. Please excuse the shameless plug, but these problems are preventable!
At the time, I had friends and foe alike that played a part in that religiously complex dilemma. A few months prior to my discharge from Wiesbaden, I was often asked to talk with troubled soldiers that needed religious counsel. I think they even bypassed the chaplains in the process. In fact, a sergeant at one of the barracks cleared “the day room” and we had frequent Bible studies after hours.
At the same time, I really had people that hated my guts! There would be many stories to tell, but much would be lost when committed to paper. The ringleader of those that went out of their way to make my life miserable is probably still in jail (for other reasons I was told.)
So today when I read of all the conflict centered on religiously charged matters, I fully understand the territory; sad that nothing much has changed after all of these 24 years. Any veteran knows that military life has a unique set of challenges due to the stress of just wearing the uniform. Low morale, distractions in the way of a units mission is very costly and can be deadly.
The secular vs. religious divide is much different for military personnel than it is for civilians. Civilians don’t absolutely have to live and work together like soldiers do! We get to go home at night, when units are in the field they don’t have that luxury. All the combustible elements are close together, along with the intoxicating power of a pissed off superior is bad news for a lower ranking subordinate whom has a different point of view.
Often times I was afraid because when you rub elbows with people trained to kill, you never know when they might “snap.” In basic training at Ft. Jackson I carried my Gideon’s New Testament in my pocket and read it to gain strength and comfort. Basic training is very intense and stressful! Yea, I was called “Holy Joe” (in reference to a Chick comic gospel tract), I had kept a low profile and was just trying to make it through those demanding 8 weeks.
A very big dude from Georgia named Randy hated my guts and decided to act upon it. While I was showering (with shampoo in my hair) this Randy came from nowhere and just sucker punched me in the face! I had no idea it was coming. I was stunned and somehow recovered enough to be enabled to fight back.
The fight led us out of the shower room and we wrestled (me naked) while tumbling down the stairs. I eventually beat the Hell out of that guy which shocked everybody in the unit. What was shocking was that Randy was so big and perhaps they somehow thought a Christian soldier just might be a pacifists. I believe he was dishonorably discharged afterwards. Just so happened that this story followed me the remainder of my service time and I wasn’t physically attacked again. Perhaps easier targets aren’t as fortunate and whenever I hear of friendly fire….I recall this story and think of how all of the tensions of the lifestyle that just might be the “story behind the story.”
I would love to have the chance to go back and contribute something by means of a peacemaker. Help make Ex-Minister into an organization and give me that chance!
Worley July 30, 2009 Ex-minister.org
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