Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Today’s newsletter isn’t going to be theological. It’s going to be practical. It’s one person’s thoughts on how to live when we simply don’t know if everything is going to be okay. 

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again. It starts in the very early morning hours of November 22, 2007. It was my first night in Iraq, and I was huddled with several hundred troopers from the Second Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment near a helipad in Balad Air Base. We were waiting for a flight of CH-47 Chinook helicopters to take us to Forward Operating Base Caldwell in Diyala Province. “Caldwell,” as we called it, was to be our home for most of the next year.

I was nervous. I was an older reservist, a 38-year-old JAG officer, joining an active-duty combat arms unit on a mission into an area of operations that was largely held by al-Qaeda. It was our mission to take that territory back. Not only had I never been deployed, I was fresh out of JAG school. As recently as Halloween I was still living my civilian life, running the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Academic Freedom.

My nervousness turned to outright fear when we boarded the helicopter. We took off, flying low and fast, packed like sardines into the back of the Chinook. From my perch, I could look right over the shoulder of the door gunner. Off in the distance I could see fires and tracer rounds from a faraway firefight. In that moment, everything became very real.

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