I sat down to watch the Army/Navy football game yesterday and witnessed the Army chaplain precede the game with a prayer, beginning by intoning, “God of wonders, some wonder why we pray for a football game. So I tell them in this game, every player on the field is willing to die for every person watching.” (Which doesn't answer the question of "why we pray," of course, but that's beside the point I'm planning to make.)
He finished by saying, “And so, almighty God, we who are willing to die for others, we salute you. Let this game begin. Amen.”
I kept wondering what the future soldiers, sailors and marines were thinking about the chaplain’s characterization of them as being “willing to die,” and belaboring the point by saying it repeatedly, because I’m pretty sure none of them signed up for that. I kind of wanted to punch that chaplain in the face.
Lumping these fine young men and women together with Muslim jihadists who strap dynamite vests on themselves and walk into a crowded marketplace to blow themselves up was pretty insulting, actually.
Dying is not what these people have in mind when they sign up to serve their country. What they do is something far more noble than being “willing to die.” What they do is place the value of their nation above themselves. I am reminded of a wonderful line from a book by Kenneth Roberts about the Revolutionary War titled, “A Rabble in Arms.” One of the great novels of all times.
“They go to war, these young men,” he said, “not to die for their country, but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it.”
On a more trivial note, I then watched the Army team play football, and do it very well. I don’t know what it was that the Navy team was doing, but it wasn’t playing football. They changed quarterbacks after the first one completed zero passes in four attempts during the first half with two interceptions, but it didn’t help. The second quarterback fumbled the ball rather than throwing interceptions, but the result was the same.