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Military Service?


Gregory Matthews
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The following is an interesting story of one person’s experience in the U.S. Army.  I do not expect that any one will agree with every position that he took.  But, the Review did well to publish it.

 https://adventistreview.org/magazine-article/onward-christian-soldier/

 

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On 6/4/2022 at 9:42 AM, Gregory Matthews said:

The following is an interesting story of one person’s experience in the U.S. Army.  I do not expect that any one will agree with every position that he took.  But, the Review did well to publish it.

https://adventistreview.org/magazine-article/onward-christian-soldieer/

It says that that URL is missing, but I do have the magazine so I'll read it there!!

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Thank you.  I have replaced the defective URL with a working link.

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Great article! I believe each of us are in different levels of faith! So really no one should feel they are a better christian than the choice's that he took! I know that in this time of my walk with God I wouldn't have made many of the choice's I made back when I served my country back during the Vietnam War!

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Greetings Greg,

On 6/4/2022 at 11:42 PM, Gregory Matthews said:

The following is an interesting story of one person’s experience in the U.S. Army. 

I am still surprised that SDAs serve in the military. For example would Russian SDAs shoot and kill Ukrainian SDAs and vice versa? Did this occur in WW1 and WW2, British and USA SDAs killing German SDAs and again vice versa? I am conscious that some SDAs have served in the nursing and medical side, but even this is considered as part of the overall military mechanism.

My grandfather was treated for gas exposure in WW1 and then some months returned to the front line and was injured in the last push of WW1 and died young, in 1927. (Another version of all quiet on the Western front). He was buried in a Catholic grave, but I do not know if he was in any way religious. My dad was fostered out when his father went to war in 1917 and eventually grew up in a different religious environment, where we are conscientious objectors to combatant and also medical parts of the military.

Kind regards Trevor

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The official U.S., SDA position on military service is:

*  A recommendation that SDA members only serve as unarmed conscientious objectors, which would generally place them in the medical field.

*  Military service is an individual choice and SDAs may remain members in good standing regardless of the role that they have in the military

* Pastoral care should be provided to all SDA members.

* The U.S. Army does allow for chaplains and medical personnel to be conscientious objectors.

*  I served for 20 years on active duty in the Army and with some additional time in Reserves and National Guard units.  That service included enlisted service and commissioned service as a chaplain.  For all of those years, I was officially listed as a conscientious objector.

 

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You know I had never thought about it like that. If opposing Adventists would shoot each other. I oppose it for sure on a voluntary basis. I don't know any Adventists who are in the military who are not forced to violate the Sabbath at some point. If there are they are very few. When you join the military it doesn't come with an "except for Sabbath" clause. Circumstances like Desmond Doss might be different. As he was drafted and he refused to violate the Sabbath. I am not necessarily against an Adventist carrying arms during a necessary war. But the problem is most wars are purely political. Solomon plainly says there is a time to kill and although the background powers behind world war 2 may have started it to gain a certain outcome on the world stage, Hitler did have to be stopped. I would have no qualms whatsoever about fighting against Hitler. Repeatedly God had Israel fight to destroy nations that were doing evil. But your point is a very valid one and makes one stop to think.

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Greetings Live4Him,

On 6/25/2022 at 10:32 PM, Live4Him said:

You know I had never thought about it like that. If opposing Adventists would shoot each other.

Perhaps it is considered occurring before the formation of the SDAs, but possibly there were Millerites in the North and South during the Civil War. My fellowship at that time had members in the North and South and a prominent member from the North went through the front lines to gain exemption for members from military service in the South. This has been the same position in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the anticipated Armageddon. I believe that armies on both sides with individuals from most religious persuasions will be destroyed during this last battle.

On 6/25/2022 at 10:32 PM, Live4Him said:

I would have no qualms whatsoever about fighting against Hitler.

Hitler was very popular in Germany in the early stages of the war. Some of it may have been staged, but his early victories seemed to be celebrated by many Germans.

Kind regards Trevor 

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The German people in 1939 were told that Poland was persecuting German-speaking people living under Polish rule in the regions that had been part of the German Empire prior to 1918. They were told that the Versailles peace imposed on them by the British and French was unfair and vindictive and had to be reversed. They were told that godless Bolshevism from Russia was a threat to European civilization and that international communism had to be stopped - remember the published works of leading communists called for worldwide revolution. When the RAF and USAF bombs started falling on German cities killing German civilians, they were told that their brave men in uniform were defending German women and children from the barbaric British and Americans. When the Red Army swept over Eastern Germany, raping and murdering women and children, they viewed their defeated soldiers and fighting the good fight.

In 1914 soldiers of all warring nations were told they were fighting a defensive battle.

US servicemen were told they were defending the US when they were fighting in Vietman. They were told they were defending the US and the civilized world against terrorism when they bombed and overran Afghanistan and Iraq. Russian soldiers today are being told they are in a civilizing struggle to "denazify" Ukraine and to rescue the persecuted ethnic Russians which had been living under a brutal "nazi" Ukrainian government.

In many states, when one signs up for military service, one surrenders one's freedom. The soldier becomes a tool in the hands of his government. It is not generally open to the soldier to evaluate privately the wisdom, morality or ethics of a particular operation before being ordered to perform it. Now under US military law, the soldier not only has a right, but also a duty to disobey an illegal order; but in practice this is difficult to apply since in the heat of battle one cannot convene a court and plead the merits of the impugned order. The soldier risks a charge of insubordination if he resists an order he perceives to be illegal.

That said, I do believe that the US military and the Canadian military have been a force for good in the Western world - and as a Canadian citizen, I believe that the power of the US military has improved my life and has improved my personal security and prosperity. I have spoken to several citizens of Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Many of them (but not all) do not consider US power over the last 70 years to have been a force for good. 

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I am grateful for my years in the military, but I have to admit that I don't know if I could have served in a combat (as opposed to say something medical or chaplaincy or other nurturing) position. These are questions that are asked by people over history; questions that need to be asked. We may not always have the correct answers, we may often have the wrong answers, but we need to keep asking, thinking, and looking at how others have dealt with this situation. 

As a child, I was wondering what the "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" in song, games and TV, thinking that the Red Baron must have been world war I's version of Hitler, some big burly bully. My mom got me a book on the Red Baron and was surprised that he was simply a young man trying his best to serve his country and his troops. That he was a very caring man. Some historians wonder if stories about his gallantry had been exaggerated, but that still shows that there was something there to start with. 

While I'd come across the effect that this other pilot had on his life, for some reason I never caught that pilot's name and never looked him up until 2018 as I was reading up on von Richtofen (the Red Baron) as we were approaching the centennial of his death, and for some reason finally decided to learn something about the man who was a hero to one of my childhood heroes. When I finally looked into this pilot, Oswald Boelcke, I was simply blown away by what I learned. Boelcke was a strong Christian. He was one of the few who had a character that made him a hero on both sides of the trenches, and it is quite amazing to have people who you are killing and trying to kill you to see you as a hero and role model. 

Boelcke never called the allies the enemy, but victims of politics, just as the Germans were. He would remind his men that if they were born in England or France that they would be flying against him instead of with him, and same if he was born in England or France, and thus demanded the men under his command respect those they meet in combat. For his victims he would see that they had a full military funeral with pictures for the family and an awareness of where their loved one was resting to visit or recover the body after the war. For survivors he (and so did Richtofen) would visit them in the hospital and see what he could do for them. They would not allow those under them to take personal items from those they shot down, they could take souvenirs of the plane, but personal items were either turned over to the Red Cross, or if need be, face anti-aircraft fire to be delivered back to the unit for return to the family. I don't know if Richtofen did this, but Boelcke would visit the POW camps to give care packages to make the sting of being a POW easier on them. Several allied pilots who either survived and met Boelcke in the hospital, or who met him at the POW camps, as they got older would say that, despite knowing that they could have been killed, that a highlight of their life was meeting this amazing man, and knew that they were in the presence of greatness. (Interestingly when Richtofen first saw Boelcke he though there was nothing impressive about this man except that he shot down enemy planes. But he soon learned that Boelcke's greatness came from his humility, making everyone else feel like they were his best friend and making others feel important.) The fact that Richtofen tried to follow in Boelcke's giant footsteps says a log about Richtofen's character. 

Richtofen was the perfect foil for Snoopy: interesting names: Sopwith Camel, Red Baron. But not some underserving bully who was constantly winning against Snoopy, but a decent human being who was on the opposite side in the war. I'm grateful how Charles Shultz  for keeping his memory alive. We need to be aware of people like Richtofen, Boelcke, Doss, Hassel and others who dealt with the issues of warfare and still wanting to be decent humans.  It will be interesting to listen to discussions between these people either on the way to, or as we first get into heaven and work with our questions. 

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