You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and his book:
BookSurge Publishing (March 5, 2008)
Chris Plekenpol graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1999. He served in the Army for 7 years as an Airborne Ranger qualified officer. He deployed from South Korea to Iraq in 2004 as a tank company team commander responsible for one hundred men and 85 million dollars worth of equipment. The toughest part of his job was losing six men under his command. Chris is a dynamic public speaker and now attends Dallas Theological Seminary.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (March 5, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Fourth of July
July 4, 2005
“Men, happy Fourth of July. You can take it off when you are done with your shift,” I quipped.
“Now get out there and don’t forget, it is better to let a bad guy get away than to kill a civilian. Try not to start a fireworks show out there.” I smiled.
Unfortunately, the fireworks display did come. LT Klemcke was commanding his tank in Charlie sector enjoying the dusk and the escape of the daily heat. Out of nowhere, LT Klemcke heard a loud crack and it felt like someone was pulling on his helmet. He looked to his loader for an explanation and the look on SPC Coddington’s face was one of surprise. They then found a piece of shrapnel on their tank and realized what had happened. An RPG had just struck their tank.
Immediately, LT Klemcke ordered the driver to move out and SGT Cardenas to scan to the south to the location where he thought the RPG came from. As he did so, SGT Cardenas spotted a man with an RPG running from behind a taxi to behind a wall.
“I got a guy with an RPG.” SGT Cardenas alerted his tank commander.
“Fire.” Came the response of LT Klemcke.
“COAX, On the way.” SGT Cardenas replied as he laid down machine gun fire trying to hit the RPG man.
“He is behind the wall.” SGT Cardenas said, “Switching to Heat.”
“Fire.” LT Klemcke replied.
With a massive blast the wall fell down. Not only that but the round skipped off the wall and hit a transformer that was behind the wall causing the transformer to explode. Sparks and fire shot into the air. LT Klemcke moved his tank into the area to further investigate.
Nothing. No bad guys. Another one had slipped away.
I decided to move out there to see if we could find any clues or if the people had any idea as to where this RPG shooter had come from. Moving to the scene I found the fallen wall, and the transformer spilling fire on the asphalt. People had started to gather in the alley.
I dismounted my tank and met SFC Gondek on the ground. He and a squad of infantry evacuated some casualties caused by the blast, nothing too serious. He and I went and interviewed those in the streets. Mohammed, my interpreter, spoke for me. But before we could ask questions, they demanded to know why we had blown up their transformer.
“Why you shoot for no reason?” a man asked in broken English. At this, I wanted to grab the guy and shake him, and ask him ‘do you really think we shoot for no reason?’ However, I maintained composure.
“There was a man with an RPG,” using hand gestures to depict the situation. “One of my tanks was shot at. Did you see anyone with an RPG in your area?”
There was a pause as if the guy was thinking about his response. Then through Mohammed, he said, “We don’t know.”
“You don’t know? How can you not know?”
“Was there anyone here that you did not know with an RPG?”
“We don’t know.”
Mohammed, got frustrated for me. His voice rose as he told them in Arabic. “Yes or No. There is no ‘I don’t know.’”
“I don’t know.”
“Mohammed turned to me, “Same s___, suhr, they say they don’t know anything.”
I could not understand it. There was something they were not telling me. I wasn’t going to beat a confession out of them. The American Justice system in Iraq would prevail, even if it was to the prolonged violence for these people. Why did these people not want to end the violence? Not want to turn in those who would bring destruction on their own people due to cross fires? I couldn’t understand it. Freedom from war was only a breath away. I couldn’t understand it. What in the world was keeping them from wanting to experience freedom?
I gave them a speech through Mohammed expressing my desire and my heartfelt prayer that they would experience freedom. I told them that we needed to work together and grip hands so that together we could defeat the insurgency and bring peace to this land. They smiled and agreed at the words, but I wondered what was going on in their hearts.
I turned to head back to my tank. Behind me a woman shrieked and a man came running at me as fast as he could. He held out a little girl not older than 10. She was bleeding and her breathing was labored. SFC Gondek took the girl in his arms and raced back to the Bradley. I radioed ahead.
“This is Apache 6, he have a dying little girl and we need to get her medical attention now. We are bypassing the clinic and taking her straight to the hospital. Tell battalion to let them know we are coming! This girl was hit by shrapnel from the firefight with the insurgent.”
As I rode back, I mulled all these things over in my mind. These people were in between a rock and a hard place. Many people would call the US for help and we responded to where a bomb was planted and blew it up. Unfortunately terrorists would often respond to that with a gangster style drive by shooting leaving the informant dead. Or we would arrest a terrorist, but due to insufficient evidence we would have to return him in three months to the population and he would seek his revenge. So although the Iraqi people wanted to be free, the cost of personal safety became too great. They had families to think about. And when a little girl would get hit by shrapnel in a firefight, there was one more reason not to trust the Americans. They had their lives to think about. And for them, better to live in fear than risk it all.
I began to understand and then I thought of my own life. Many times I find myself in the midst of the same quandary. I want to do what is right. I want to exhibit freedom in Christ. Yet, there are times where I find myself lingering on in my sinful nature. Can I give up safety and what I know for the risk of what God wants and desires for my life? Sin, although not God-honoring, can be comforting. For me, my secret sins provide me a release to escape life for a moment.
My sinful nature hates the light, so when I step into a confrontation of the Holy Spirit in my times alone with God there is a cleansing and a renewing of faith. There is a sense of clarity on life and everything is in order. However, I know that I become even weaker if I think I can grow stronger by willpower, or if I think I can handle my sinfulness by myself.
Jesus points this out in Luke 11:24-2-6, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
My heart, when confronted with sin can repent and receive full cleansing. Yet, for me there is always an extreme battle as darkness tries to overwhelm the light. The enemy uses whatever he can to intimidate, to create doubt, to instill a sense of powerlessness in our lives. And there have been times where I have believed the lies and found myself worse off than when I began trying to get closer to God. The end result was losing the battle and falling further away from the Lord.
I don’t know if you have ever been there. I don’t know if you can relate to that, but I don’t think I am too different from you. I find that there really isn’t a super spiritual answer other than rely on others to hold me accountable so that I don’t find myself in the self-destructive habits of sin.
Ecclesiastes says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)”
The insurgents in Iraq threaten civilians and make them feel as if they have talked to everyone in the entire town, and if they even mention their name even to their neighbor, they will be killed. My prayer is that these Iraqi civilians would become a united front against the insurgency, because a cord of three strands is not easily broken.
In the same way, my prayer is that we as Christians would overcome fear that we are the only ones dealing with whatever sin that we are struggling with and unite. That we would look to our fellow believers in Christ and take a stand and lift each other up and defend each other from the grip of the enemy.
Are you in the depths of sin, chok-slammed by the enemy, feeling as though he has the upper hand and will not let you go? Are you afraid to tell anyone for fear that you may be hurt, or looked down upon, or face the consequence of your sin? Are you willing to step out of the darkness of fear and into the mercy of God?