The Love of My Brothers—a Memorial Day Reflection
Everything is tainted these days.
Everything is corrupt.
A potpourri of dissonance floods our collective conscience. Some idolize veterans, making heroes of all who serve. Some equate the flag and the pledge with righteousness. Others find it necessary to desecrate that which others hold sacred. Still others denounce it all, scorning all displays of social, political, and even civic activity.
I ask you to set those things aside, however briefly…gaze upon the heart of Christ.
Michael Monsoor was confronted with a decision…him or his friends.
Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 was a nasty place. Al Qaeda, local insurgents, and straight up criminals controlled much of the city as the troop surge implemented by President Bush was still a year away, along with the Sunni Awakening of local tribes who would weary of bloodshed.
With temperatures approaching 100 degrees on a sweltering Friday, September 29th, SEAL Monsoor, three fellow SEAL snipers, and three Iraqi Army soldiers occupied a rooftop during a gunfight in downtown Ramadi. A local mosque broadcast a continuous call to arms as insurgents flooded the area.
The SEALs found themselves in a fight for their lives.
Monsoor, positioned near a stairwell, engaged the enemy. The others were spread out across the rooftop when it happened.
An insurgent below lobbed a grenade onto the roof, striking Monsoor in the chest. It fell to the ground at his feet. Monsoor, crouching next to the stairwell offering immediate cover, instead dove onto the grenade absorbing the blast with his body.
His friends, though wounded, lived. Monsoor, though evacuated immediately, died within an hour.
Michael Monsoor saw the imminence of death and in a split second, a fraction of time, made a decision that had to have been made in his mind, in his heart, and really in his soul some time before. There was simply not time to decide.
At some point, he had already decided.
He loved his friends more than himself.
The scribes confront Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28)
Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy, responds,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (verse 30)
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (verse 31)
Jesus tells us that the entirety of the Law can be summarized by these two commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor…with all you have. Who then is your neighbor? It is whoever God places before you…your friends, your family, your co-workers, your enemies even and in the case of Michael Monsoor…his teammates, his brothers-in-arms.
I have no idea of Michael Monsoor’s spiritual status, but on that dusty rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq on September 29th, 2006, he displayed the heart of Christ in loving his brother more than himself.
Dennis Weichel knew who his neighbor was…and he loved him more than himself.
In March 2012, in eastern Afghanistan, the 29-year-old Army specialist was part of a convoy of MRAP’s (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles), 16-ton heavily armored vehicles designed to shield soldiers from IED’s, the weapon of choice of most insurgents.
Kids were in the road.
The soldiers dismounted the vehicles to shoe the children from the road. As they boarded up and began to move, one little boy ran back into the path of the hulking MRAPs to retrieve spent shell casings that he might later sell.
Weichel reacted, racing to pull the young boy from the path of the MRAPs. Just in time, he shoved the boy unharmed from the path but was himself run over, mortally wounded.
He died a short time later.
Weichel was survived by his own son, two daughters, and a fiance’.
“He would have done it for anybody,” said a friend, “That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
Providence, Rhode Island
The Warrior Spirit, the true Warrior Spirit, not the one of fiction and pop culture, comes from Christ.
The fruit of the Warrior Spirit is a willing self-sacrifice, not to take life, but to give.
What would possess a man to sacrifice as such, a father. Perhaps it was exactly that, thoughts of his own young son, seared into his soul, that would compel him, without hesitation, to protect another young boy.
His own son, Nicholas, wrote a letter to him in his death.
“I really, really miss you,” read a portion of that letter. “I promise I will protect my sisters, Hope and Madison, like you told me to. You are my hero. I know you are in heaven watching over me. You are the brightest star.”
Wake up the night crews.
This command set in motion the chain of events that led to the death of two noble warriors, Major Matthew Worrell and CW5 Jamie Weeks.
There exists a sacred trust between gunship pilots and the ground forces they protect. Nowhere was this more evident than in the special operations community. The gunship pilots, as both angels of death and ministers of life, unflinchingly place themselves in harm’s way to rain steel upon the heads of those who would seek to harm their brothers on the ground.
“God will judge our enemies, we’ll arrange the meeting,”—an ominous motto of one such organization.
On May 14th, 2006—Mother’s Day—Major Worrell and CW5 Weeks were awakened from a deep slumber to the bright desert heat and their comrades in danger. A wicked gunfight had been stirred up in Yusufiyah, Iraq, the heart of the Triangle of Death. Several of their brothers had already been shot down. Out of ammunition, they limped their battle-damaged aircraft to the nearest base.
Matt and Jamie, the other crew, and the liaison officer did a quick huddle planeside and within minutes, they were kitted up, bringing the aircraft on-line. Confusion greeted their ears as the sounds of battle emanated across multiple nets.
At some point, they turned their aircraft west…toward the sound of the guns.
They ran to the sound of the guns.
Into the shadow of death they stormed, into the hornet’s nest. Their brothers were in the fight, with no gunships overhead. Without hesitation, in the full fury and righteous anger of a brother defending his brother from harm. With full assurance, fueled by the love of their brothers, they blazed into battle.
Within one pass of arriving over the objective, an insurgent round found its home and blew these valiant warriors from the sky.
The Bearded One once exhorted us at SERE School, “You gotta love your brothers!”
With eyes blazing like hellfire and brimstone, this bearded giant, the most intimidating man I’d ever met, implored us…to love. Not to fight, but to love. And for that love, for the love of my brothers, I would fight. For the love of my brothers, I would give of my own life.
Matt Worrell left behind a young wife and two young sons. Jamie left a wife and four daughters. For love.
They loved their brothers more than themselves. This is the Warrior Spirit, this is the Spirit of Christ. They loved their brothers all the way up to and including their own death and if we could ask them, any of them, I’m sure they’d do it again, with no hesitation. Perhaps they’d want to go back and love on their wife and sons, their daughters, a bit more when they had the chance, but I’m sure they’d not relent.
They died that a brother may live, and for this, I honor them this day, all of them.
Set aside your politics.
Set aside your nationalism. Set aside your obstinate resistance to anything righteous. Refuse patriotism in this moment and see.
See love, Christ-like love.
Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
There is no greater love than a man who would lay down his life for his friends. Our lives are the most precious thing we have been given, our very breath a gift of the Almighty, an undeserved grace. The hero willingly gives of his life, not to take life, but that others may live.
When I meditate on the sacrifice of men like Monsoor and Weeks, Worrell and Weichel, I stand in awe. Again, I have no idea if these men were of Christ or not and I’ll make the necessary caveat that apart from a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, all men stand condemned.
Scripture affirms to us that we, Christians, can be known by the fruit of our lives. Did we bear fruit? We will be known, most of all, by our love, our love for our brothers.
Just as these men gave their lives, so too did our Lord Jesus, saying this is how much I love you, as He stretched out His arms and died…for the love of His brothers, the love of His friends, and amazingly, while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8)
In contemplating the life of these men, the love of these men, let us consider the source of such love, the risen Lord Jesus and let us ultimately turn to Him.
Let that be our tribute this Memorial Day. More than fitting don’t you think?
The Brave Rifles Series
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Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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