I asked a representative at the Press Center yesterday about Easter Services here in the Green Zone. There were services, but they were in the Palace, which is generally off-limits to those who are not Coaltion employees--a category which includes reporters. I got the distinct impression that I was the first reporter to have asked this question, which demonstrated a certain cultural gap between the soldiers, who tend to be quite religious, and the reporter class, among whom religion is at best not a spoken topic. To give but one poignant example of the religious character of the troops, a few weeks ago I spoke with a brave young man who had been patrolling in the Sunni Triangle when a mortar exploded near him. He sustained a serious injury to his leg, and while I met with him the Army was preparing to move him from the Combat Support Hospital up to Germany for more treatment. As they readied him for the Medevac chopper, a nurse handed him the personal effects which were in his pockets when he arrived at the hospital. He surveyed the ziploc bag and noticed that something was missing: his Bible. You see, he normally carries it in his back pocket. He reflected that the day he was hit was the first time that he was not carrying his Bible. The sentiment struck me not as superstition, or the desire to keep something of a good luck charm on your person. Rather, the soldier’s statement spoke of his faith, and his desire to keep God’s word close to him when surrounded by those who would do him harm. This faith is repeated time and again on the battlefied, in images such as the now famous AP photo from Fallujah, showing Marines praying over their fallen comrade.
It is my opinion that this helps explain why the press has such a hard time relating to the soldiers. You see, the soldiers subscribe to a set of rules and values which make no sense to the elites. The soldiers on average believe in God. They have a strong sense of patriotism--a love of their country and what their country stands for. They believe that there are things that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. And they believe that there are things worth dying for, and worth killing for. For this, they are considered simple-minded by the far more sophisticated members of the press. Fine. They can keep their post-modern sophistication, but I prefer the simple faith and values of the soldier. May God keep them and protect them on this Easter day, and every day.