Inner peace on the first day of war

Dear Editor,

Before leaving for the war, I didn’t keep a diary. I started to keep one when I went to Iraq because there was no guarantee that I would come back home alive. Editor, I want to share with you a part of my diary from the war.

The first day of war is the scariest because you don’t know what to expect and because you haven’t been there before. In the military, you spend your entire life training and preparing for combat, and when it comes it’s never what you expected.

As I reflect on being in Iraq on Ash Wednesday 2004, I remember driving on the most perilous and frightening roads from Kuwait to Iraq. It was dangerous and daunting because at the time, more soldiers died on those roads from improvised explosive devices or IEDs than at any other place. At that time, the military didn’t provide vehicles to protect us from the IEDs. We were left at the mercy of God.

But even though it was menacing and disheartening, I wasn’t afraid. Intuitively, I felt a peace and serenity that I could not explain. It was a peace that passes all understanding. Why did I have such peace and serenity on this most dangerous road? Why wasn’t I afraid? Why did it feel like I was on an adventure or in a movie? Why did it feel so serene?

Did I hear God’s voice telling me not to be afraid? No, I didn’t hear a voice. So why I wasn’t afraid? I don’t know; all that I know was that deep within my soul, I just felt an unexplainable peace. Do I believe that it came from God? I can’t think of any other person that it would come from.

I’ve never been so close to grave danger or death, and felt such unbelievable peace and serenity. The experience felt like a miracle. To make matters even worse, my boss told me that he wanted my vehicle to be the first vehicle because the first vehicle faces the greatest threat. Somehow he believed that if I led the way nothing bad would happen. I felt proud and honoured to lead the troops into battle.

To be human is to be afraid but on that day and at that moment, I was not afraid. Maybe I was having an inhuman moment. Human beings’ greatest fear is death. There have been times in my life when I had faced less danger and was extremely afraid. But not this time. Just as light takes away the darkness, the peace took away the fears. To experience the greatest peace, while facing the greatest danger is nothing less than a miracle.

As long as I could remember, I had always wanted the most dangerous jobs because I’m not afraid to die because I am confident and know for sure that if I died that I’m going to a better place. Maybe this is why I wasn’t afraid. But later down in the war there was a time when I was very afraid but I will share that experience another time.

 

Yours faithfully,
Anthony Pantlitz

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