The request was so unusual and unorthodox, so audacious and inappropriate that it amused the colonel. Later he also admitted that he must have been in a benevolent mood for whatever reason, or he would have dismissed the petulant recruit out of hand.
It was the middle of July of a particularly warm summer at the Marine Corps training base in Parris Island. The nation was at war and the recruiting classes had been churning through boot camp at a torrid pace to get men out onto the battle lines. A new group of recruits had tumbled off the bus three weeks ago and that group seemed to be progressing with their boot camp training fairly well. There were the usual complaints about rashes and ticks and mosquitos and blisters, and the somewhat more troubling although common reports of heat exhaustion and broken bones, but there was nothing that the colonel had not seen many times before.
Until now. Until “the request.” The colonel still couldn’t quite believe it, but there it was on his desk. One of the recruits who had been in the Marine Corps a grand total of 19 days had sent a letter to the colonel, the commanding officer of the base, requesting a meeting with him to share some thoughts that “Private First Class whoever” had as he was going through boot camp. In the 26 years that the colonel had been running the boot camp, no recruit had ever done that before. The colonel was especially surprised that this request would come from a raw recruit while the nation was at war, but there it was. So in ten minutes this would-be Marine was gong to come into his office.
“Good afternoon, Colonel,” PFC Whoever said as he saluted at attention.
“Well, at least he seems to have that part down,” mused the colonel to himself. “At ease, soldier. I have agreed to meet with you, which is highly unusual. What is the reason for this meeting?” The colonel gestured toward a chair and the soldier sat down.
“Thank you, sir, for agreeing to meet with me. You won’t regret this. Let me get right to the point. As you know, I am going through boot camp here and I have been making some observations over the last 19 days. So, I have two main things I want to share with you.
“First, I wanted to give you some thoughts for how to improve the boot camp experience for the recruits. You may not be aware of this, but a lot of the guys in the barracks are griping about their drill instructor and about the long hours that they go through drills and training each day. Some days we start at 4:30 in the morning and go all the way till after dark and that just seems excessive to me. And the drill instructor is rude and angry with your recruits. So, just a couple of small things would make this better for everyone. Have the DI be a little kinder and gentler with the recruits and then move the earliest start time back to, say, 6AM instead of 4:30, and I think you would see a leap in morale.”
The colonel’s anger was rising rapidly and he moved to speak to the recruit, but PFC Whoever raised his hand and said, “Just a second and you can let me know all your thoughts. But I have one more thing to suggest.
“At the end of this boot camp I know that you will need to send me to my next assignment, and I am sure at some point there will be a chance for me to take some aptitude testing and do some interviewing, but I wanted to help you out a little bit and share with you where I feel my strengths lie and where I could be used best.
“Now, I know there is a war going on and that a lot of men are needed up near the front to fire rifles and machine guns and throw hand grenades and that kind of thing, but that’s just not where I feel gifted. Some of the guys in the platoon are dead aims with their rifles and they can throw a grenade thirty yards and drop it right on the target, but that’s not me. My gifts lie more in administration and leadership. After boot camp, I would like to consider a lieutenant’s role at a place well back away from the front where I can plan strategy. That’s where I can excel, because I am a “big-picture” kind of guy. What do you think?”
The colonel barely contained his rage at the impudence of this so-called soldier.
“Soldier, let me help you understand something. When you enlisted in this group, you gave up your rights. We will decide how you are trained, because we know what it takes to turn weak, flabby boys into hard and disciplined men. Your job is to obey your Drill Instructor and to do exactly what he tells you to do as soon as he tells you to do it. We own you and we will deploy you where we see fit.
“We are at war, and we do not need soldiers comfortably distanced from the front, but we need soldiers who are able to engage the enemy and to use their weapons to destroy his strongholds and his fortresses. And so your next assignment is not up to you. You do not get a voice or a vote. We will decide your next assignment based on what is most needed by the king to gain us the victory. Is that clear?”
2 Timothy 2:4 – “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” – The apostle Paul
Matthew 8:9 ‘ – [The centurion said to Jesus,] “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Then Jesus commended the centurion for his great faith (8:10).
APPLICATIONS: The believer has joined himself by faith to the King of kings as a soldier who is at the disposal of the King for whatever assignment the King has in mind. The church of Jesus Christ is at war with the world, the flesh and the devil and is engaged in pressing back the kingdom of darkness until the Lord Jesus returns. A soldier is to know how to use his weapons with skill to advance his kingdom and to inflict damage on the enemy. A soldier is not given the option of retreat or surrender. We do not choose our assignments, but rather these are given to us by the king. We may like or dislike our assignment, but that has no bearing on our duty as a soldier to perform it. We accept our assignment and accomplish the task we have been given. It may be difficult and dangerous, or it may be comfortable and enjoyable, but we strive to fulfill our duty because we love the one who has given us the assignment. Typically, the king gives his most difficult assignments to those who have already proven themselves faithful. As a soldier, I desire to be selected for the difficult assignments and to please my King in accomplishing the goal.
Brothers and sisters, as good soldiers of Christ, let us accept the assignments the King has given us and let us strive to be faithful to accomplish the missions He has appointed to us. Remember that, in His perfect wisdom, He is the one who has given us our assignments. They have come from His loving hand and are to be accomplished for His glory. Be faithful! Never shrink back! Never say ‘no’ to any of the King’s assignments, but rather strive with all your might for their accomplishment.
SDG rmb 4/21/2019