Wednesday, February 2


I entered the United States Air Force in 1994 after graduating from the Air Force Academy. I was trained to think critically, to honor, to defend the weak, to promote justice. I was paid very modestly, but it didn't matter. I served with pride, my chest swelling to think I could be involved in something so incredibly intangible as the defense of our American freedoms. That whatever work I did behind the scenes as a support officer would save lives in battle.

Only a 2 hour plane ride from where I served in the military, Guatemala was in the last 2 years of a 36 year civil war. 200,000 civilians were murdered. The government committed horrible war crimes... through its military.

Tonight I came home to find a neighbor with one of his relatives waiting by my front porch with a letter in his hand. They asked if I could help them translate a letter. I was tired, hungry, and frankly, a bit annoyed to hear that the man needed it to be finished within an hour. I asked if I could eat dinner with my family and have it ready in two hours. He agreed to wait, and I agreed to help.

Here is an excerpt of the letter, with his name removed for confidentiality:

To Whom it may concern:
.... I served in the Guatemalan military during the Guatemalan Civil War, in which the military committed many crimes against humanity. On January 6th, 1996, I deserted the military, due to direct orders contrary to my conscience, which were intended to cause harm to defenseless civilians. Specifically, we were ordered to patrol at night for unsuspecting youth, capture them, and force them into military service against their will.
On the 9th of January, 1996, I left for the United States where I found gainful employment. On May 7th, 2002, I crossed the border of the United States near Detroit, Michigan, and entered Canada (through Winsor) to seek refuge.
I sought refuge in Canada because I was afraid of the cruel punishment and reprisals that the Guatemalan military intended to make against me because I deserted. The reputation of the Guatemalan military was that it always hunted down and punished deserters....

Injustice. Most of the world suffers terribly from governments, politicians, or employers who oppress and take advantage of those they are supposed to serve.

However, justice is not just a right as an American or a Christian. It's a responsibility we have as human beings, to defend others who are too weak to do it for themselves. We snooze through our history classes, we chafe in the politically correct corporate training courses. We gloss over it when Jesus commands it. We become too bothered, too busy, too bored, to care.

I was almost too busy to help this man. Afterwards, he asked me how much he owed me for translating, and I was speechless. He had already paid me. He had given me an appreciation for something that I had assumed was normal, universal, my right, everyone's right. An appreciation and a reminder of something I have taken for granted for too long.