Nine years ago today our country entered into a war in Afghanistan. I am reflecting on that war today as I recently completed The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig Mulhanney. It was a fascinating book that chronicled the life of Mulhanney as he spent four years at West Point, two years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and then serving our country in Afghanistan.
This book helped me really understand more of the challenges our soldiers face every day. Secondly, it helped me pray for them more intelligently. And finally, there are many lessons to be drawn to our spiritual battle as Christians.
So on this day I want to honor all those who have served in our nation’s military to protect our freedoms as well as those who are serving now–wherever they may be–stateside or around the world. I especially remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for the sake of freedom.
Here are some quotes from The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mulhanney:
“Skill and will win battles.” –Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera
“Any knucklehead with sufficient practice can shoot a rifle straight. Will, on the other hand, is different. Will takes character.”–Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera
“Soldier, you are either a marksman or a target.”–Camera
“Every profession has its tools. Ours is just more expensive and deadly.”–Lt. Colonel Paul Camera
“You have to assume you will be killed or be ready to take over this company when I am. Make yourself dispensable.”–Captain Ryan Worthan to Lt. Craig Mulhanney
“Friendly fire isn’t”–Captain Ryan Worthan
Lieutentants need good sergeants: “Without a doubt, platoon sergeants make or break platoon leaders. A good one–experienced, competent, and patient–can teach a lieutenant everything he needs to know to train and deploy a platoon to fight in combat. A bad platoon sergeant, on the other hand, can wreck a lieutenant, land him on the commander’s carpet at the position of attention, and impress bad habits resistant to change. For months I had said the same prayer every night before sleeping, “Please, God give me a good platoon sergeant.”–Lt. Craig Mulhanney
“Leading a platoon. . . demanded the tact of a marriage counselor, the ear of a priest, and the skills of a social worker–and all this before anyone fired a shot in combat.”–Mulhanney
“Combat for all infantrymen is a test of will, endurance, and courage. For a leader, combat is also cognitive–the challenge of managing extraordinary complexity under extraordinary pressure.”–Mulhanney
“The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking down by cowards.”–Sir William Francis Butler
“Over the course of the deployment, I swallowed my own body weight in Afghan dust.”–Mulhanney
“In Afghanistan our enemy was everywhere and nowhere.”–Mulhanney
“Military officers plan for the worst and hope for the best. Stay alert and stay alive.”
“There are known knows. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know that we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know that we know.” –Donald Rumsfield
A comparison between surgeons and soldiers: “High-risk surgeries went awry all the time, but the best surgeons barely raised their voices or paused when their efforts failed. Where people confront chaos and death as situation normal, the ability to constrain panic by procedure and sanitized language was critical to survival and success. For the military it was just more pronounced. Unlike surgeons, our own lives were at risk while we operated.” –Craig Mulhanney