Bethany: A Summary

It’s Veterans’ Day as I write this, and I want to thank all the military veterans I know for their service to our country. I’ve gotten side-tracked with transcribing Bethany’s journals. I’m all set up to do it, it’s just that life is busy. But I want to keep posting things here.

So my plan is to post snippets of things I’ve already written (but haven’t yet published).

Here’s some of what I’ve written (so far – subject to editing) describing the project in a Preface:

“Goddammit!” she said, and I heard a hand slapping hard on the typewriter. Maybe it was or wasn’t the proverbial sound of “one hand clapping”, but this act of anger against an inanimate object showed just how quickly she could and often did swell with anger, in just a flash.

I didn’t even know that anyone was sitting there. As I turned to see what was happening, I couldn’t have known that in the moments following her exclamation there, my life would be changed forever. It was a life-changing event in the most dramatic possible way.

I was a good Catholic boy at the time, having just spent several years seriously considering the Roman Catholic priesthood as a vocation. And it was clear from her language that she was, well, not a nice girl. Yet I was lonely, and she was beautiful. I found I needed something she had, and she seemed to need something that I could offer, and so we moved forward very quickly along those lines. There was no planning at all. And it wasn’t long afterward that I married the girl who had introduced herself to me with that amazing curse.

This is a book about our marriage, but it is particularly about my wife, Bethany, because she was a hero. Or at least, she became a hero in the sense that any Soldier who dies for his or her country is a hero. She did not die in uniform, but served with distinction at a time of war, and she died at age 54 from the complications that followed an active-duty deployment to Iraq in 2003, just after the Marines invaded, just after Saddam fled and that country descended into chaos, while she was 41 years old.

She had served as a medic with a weapons intelligence unit that was part of the second wave of American military into Iraq in April 2003, following the initial invasion by the Marines. Her commanding officer told me that the unit was the 19th unit overall into that country.

She overcame tremendous obstacles all of her life, and she did it largely while being cheerful and looking to God in Christ for hope. Not that she didn’t experience tremendous headwinds. She was able to overcome despite the almost inhuman obstacles that she faced.

She had been sexually abused as a child. She was a young runaway and a high school drop-out, and she got into all the different kinds of trouble that a teenage runaway can get into. The effects of her abuse lasted a lifetime, and they were passed on in various ways to others in her life, most especially our children. And she always felt hamstrung by her lack of education.

Maybe she looked for ways of being heroic as a countermeasure to the weakness and helplessness she felt because of these things. She was an overcomer of the purest and most noble kind, and many of her struggles will come up in this book, through both my observations and more importantly, from her journals.

She served two tours in the US Army: she was in West Germany in the early 1980s as a single young woman, and later, after the events of 9/11/2001, as a Reservist (we thought), as a mother of five (later six). She was activated (via an “involuntary transfer”) for a time and went to Iraq. She struggled with leukemia, we think as a result of chemical exposures she received there, and she died far too early.

So it’s a book about her lifetime, but it is also a book about Christian marriage. A particular Christian marriage to be sure.

It’s a husband writing about his wife, and so in the nature of things, I’ll spend some time telling you who I am too. I was her husband for 28 years. As a writer, I understand my need to remain in the background, but I was both the context for and now the narrator of her life story.

She kept a lot of journals, however, and wrote a lot of letters, and she will contribute her own thoughts liberally here, so you’ll get a good first-hand account from her throughout.

In our day, people “identify” themselves by their sexuality. Since she and I were married, and we fought to remain married, it is also story about a Biblical vision of Christian marriage as an image of the love, the joys, and the redemptive qualities of God for humans. It is about the pain of separation and the hope of glory.

Christian marriage is counter-cultural in our day. There is a prevalent understanding of marriage among conservative Christians, especially among Reformed Christians, who primarily see themselves as descendants of the Protestant Reformation. That’s where I locate myself on the scale of things.Jesus said of marriage, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:5-7).

–End–

Bethany: First Impressions of Aberdeen Proving Ground

Following up on my previous blog post, I’m starting now into Bethany’s journals and letters that began AFTER she received her transfer orders, to a unit that was headed to Iraq (February 2003).

Bethany was to be stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. If I recall, Bethany and I did a whole bunch of shopping for things she thought she might need, everything from underwear to cigarettes.

She picked up a journal as well. In this journal, at least the first page is missing (there is a small scrap left over in the spiral binding), then about four pages of Arabic consonants which she was practicing. Her words below are in italics, and my comments are interspersed in the normal typeface.

Dear Johnny Feb 4 / Tue 03

I was up at 4:30 am, [yesterday?] showering & ironing my uniform & out the door. I did most of the financial & legal stations for processing. It was a low stress day. I greatly appreciated the thoughtless duties. I answered a bunch of medical problems for Soldiers & helped in the supply room. I did everything but office work.

After I talked with you I had a beer & went to bed. I wished that I could have had a six pack. I’ve also been studing [sic] the Arabic alphabet. So far I’ve memorized 6 consonants. Whoopee, huh?

12:30 pm my roomate came in late like gang-busters. She woke me up from a sound sleep banging & rustling around with out any care for someone who may be sleeping. And she didn’t seem to care that she was disturbing anyone. So now I’m up wide awake at 1:30, 2 am.

I’ve got the following highlighted (with a yellow highlighter). I would only have read this (journal) after she was already deployed to Iraq.

I was looking at the unit’s roster. I was trying to personally organize the duties in my minds eye. I was trying to understand people & their duties. As I studied it & realized everyones duties I noticed that not only am I listed as a 71L I’m also lowest on the list. Most if the Itel [intelligence] are 96Bs, and I’m not sure what they are, but they’re tops on the roster’s list.

I’m so worried that I’m going to have to do shit work for a year.

Keep in mind that I was horrified by the turn of events of the past three weeks or so – from the family day “re-enlistment” to the cutting of the “involuntary transfer” orders a week later, through the shopping trip for supplies for basically a year, to dropping her off at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and what (it seemed to me) was a very long drive home.

Each time we visited her, then (and we saw her on several occasions), it was thought that she could deploy, and it might be the last time we’d see her.

Later, after I’d had some time to talk with some folks and begin piecing things together, it became a sticking point between her and me. The MOS “71L” basically was her oldest job classification, as a secretary. She told me of a time when she was in the Reserve for the first time, around 1980, and her unit was on Bivouac, and she had to carry a typewriter around with her, to do the unit’s official paperwork.

Now she was being called to be a secretary again – something she knew precious little about. This was important, because as I went up the chain of command (talking first to chaplains, as she had requested, and then to JAG officers), the story line was, “she’s a highly qualified soldier, and she was chosen via a computer match for her skills, and for the needs of the unit”. A female two-star General (actually up her chain of command) told me this personally.

A day later to my amazement I realized that my roommate is not SGT (Smith) but she’s really a Warrent Officer and Chief of a section. I did an immediate about face in my attitude & tried to filter the air for the warm fuzzies.

Tues Feb 18/03

I just finished church services 1600 with a Pentecostal Soldier & Pastor & cried my eyes out.

Before church I was not happy about the way my day was going. I couldn’t get breakfast because the chow hall was closed because of the snow and then the bus left us and I had to walk to the unit without my jacket which I had left at the unit the day before. So I was in a miserable state.

Before one of my training classes a soldier brought me some lunch form the “Chow Hall” I was very moved that this Old Man Soldier went out of his tired way for me.

At Church Services the Pentecostal Pastor read to us from Romans 10: something about along race that Paul was in & how we were in a long race also. And that we’re to receive a “crown not corruptible.” It was a nice service. This time I went because I wanted too, not to get out of a duty. I wanted God to take away this war but if he can’t I’d like him to stay with me & help me to do the right thing when I have to. Most of all I want him to bless my husband & babies & take care of them and not let them hurt for me and I want my absence to work for the good. Maybe he can make it good for you Johnny.

Of course this last paragraph reminds one of the scene from Daniel 3:17-18, where Daniel and his companions were commanded to worship the golden image, or face the fire, and Daniel’s refusal and explanation: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

She carried this attitude toward life, which matured as she grew older, and it was a wonderful and challenging thing to watch.

# # #

Featured

“It’s really an incredible life that we’re living and you should write about it”

Hello. If you know anything about me, you know that my wife Bethany died more than six years ago now. I’ve had a hard time with her death, especially at first, and for a long time, but the grief mostly has passed. I still have those moments, however.

On the one hand, I miss her terribly. On the other hand, she would have been horrified by the way that political and cultural events have rolled out over the years since she died.

If you’ve seen this page in the past, maybe you remember that I was hoping and indeed trying to write about her. I have started and stopped at multiple points: the grief was too hard to deal with; there was so much information to have to remember and compile; I stopped at one point, after a very long and concerted effort to try and contact book agents.

I’m at it again, and to this point, I’ve got roughly 95,000 words and 270 pages. Those are rough estimates, because I’m doing different things in different documents, and I know that some editing will be required to put these things together.

So far, I’ve written the beginning of the book and the end of the book – this latter part consisting of things that I learned about her only AFTER she died. I did this by going through all of the papers that she had carried around our whole life together. I hate to brag, but I really trusted her with all the things that she had told me about herself, and I did not snoop into her personal papers at all, with one small exception.

That one small exception was while she was gone in Iraq. I took those papers out of the garbage bag in which she had been storing them, and I collated them and put them into order. Then I put them in the attic and never looked at them again.

Among other things, she was a hoarder. This not only included “stuff”, but “papers”. Memories, really. She kept every paystub, every movie and concert ticket, every card or letter she received, every set of orders, every train or plane ticket … you get the idea.

But there is an exception to this, as well. Some of these papers and other things were damaged. At one point, we lived in an old wood frame house, and she kept these things stashed in a crawl space – “in the dirt” – next to the steps down into a musty old basement. I couldn’t stand up straight in that basement, it was so short and dark and musty, so I rarely went down there. But we kept washer and dryer and other things down there, and she did laundry down there for our young and growing family for four years, from 1995 through the end of 1997, when we were forced to move out.

Old and musty as this house was, (and probably moldy, too), the years we spent there were for her, the best years of our lives together. Prior to that, we struggled financially, and we moved a lot from apartment to apartment. After that came another couple of moves and then 9/11/2001. That event really did change “everything” for us.

But while we lived in that old house, for her, it was heaven on earth, with love, family, wonderful friendships, and a white picket fence. She was a young wife, the young and pretty mom of (up to that point) four little boys who loved and obeyed her. She was not only the matriarch of our family, but she had been adopted into the family of some of our neighbors – as large and rambunctious and loving a group of people as anyone could hope to get to know.

Those good times didn’t last, though we tried to hang onto them. We had to move away, and then Bethany went into the army.

I’m transcribing her journals now, and I’ve come to a point at which she describes her reasons for and her doubts about that period of her life. It was a letter that she wrote to me, in November 2002, just as she was finishing up her training as a medic. I haven’t read this letter for some time now, but revisiting it is really a priceless experience. It really brings both her inner strength and her inner troubles back to me in a very moving way.

I’ll be posting some more of these thoughts of hers from time to time. If you find misspellings or grammatical errors below, I’ve tried to be as faithful to her own words as I could be.

Let me know what you think.

Nov 8, 10:30 am

I’m outside on field training. I’m pretty nervous because I’ve been made Pltoon Sergent for [illegible]. We’re on reconisonce right now trying to bet to our BN station without getting shot or blown up. I’m in charge of 10 soldiers & I don’t want to do anything stupid to trouble or to get “killed”. A “killed” will take you out.

Sat Nov 9 / 02 12:20 pm

I’ve learned about Nathaniel’s bad grades. I hope this is the worst that can happen while I try * finish this course. So far when I get home I’m going to have my work cut out for me getting things back in order.

8 pm.

I went shopping today and bought goodies for the kids & our neighbor’s kids too. The days are too slow for me. I’m sure that they’re to slow for you too. I can’t believe how long 4 months are when your so miserable.

One night a long time ago before I left for the army I couldn’t sleep. So I turned on the T.V. while you were sleeping. A program on the Travel Channel showed all about San Antonio & the river walk. I remember watching all about it thinking then that I hope we’ll all like it. And I had hoped that we would all get to see it while I was going through school. I am so surprised about how it all worked out.

I’ve come to the Riverwalk twice since I’ve been here and I haven’t enjoyed one minute of it. I only came here to get away from the base because it’s so ugly there & I’m miserable here without you all. I also worry about the balance of my family while I’m away.

I’ve found a little Texas bar that I feel comfortable at for a little while. I’m going to drink a couple of beers & write to you and then go back to my bunk soon.

There are many thoughts on my mind right now. One of them is about spending 6 days out in the field playing the role of a combat medic. I just talked to a few soldiers that came back from the field! They all told me how hard it was. I wisht hat I had the confidence that I had when I first started this personal mission. All the medical studies were so hard. There were so many times that I didn’t think that I was going to make it. Plus my age is hindering my mind’s thinking. I’m sure I can do this for a couple of years but I really don’t knowhow long that I have left physically. I’m always so sore & a little slow at everything. It’s wonderful to get through the obstycles [sic] with out having my own heart attack

The most demanding of all my thoughts are about you & the kids. I would really enjoy this work & the struggle if all you guys were here with me. How can one enjoy a career & family together? That’s a big thought that I’d like to have come together for peace of heart & mind. The last ten years of my life have been family & babies.

It’s really an incredible life that we’re living and you should write about it. I do believe that God has been the lead of us. When I remember that axis I get peace inside & feel at ease. But situations around me unnerve me and make me loose my confidence. Plus I believe the evil one plagues me. I’m always wanting to do the right thing but situations happen & I could not act in or react perfectly. I’m always being tested! I always worry that I failed to make, or arise to be the woman to meet the strom. That hurts me deeply.

I so want to do good things for the world and then I realize that I’m so inadequate. When is enough really enough? I always knock & I don’t receive an answer. How about you? When I get to this frenzy & can’t think anymore I stop thinking and just do. I just do the next of what ever is required with out thought, letting everything fall into place with the belief that God is moving then. We start or move events we can’t control everything that comes with the momentum.

I have to tell you right now that I love you and I thankyou very much for letting me do this. I’d never get to try this challenge if it weren’t for you. You’re my backbone. I’ve never had anyone before you that loved me like you do to the point of letting me grow. Growing & learning are such gifts that haven’t any price. I’ve learned that one thing when helping others. One must always give as much as they can for someone to learn. It comes with that phrase “teach a man to fish.” You really do good work for God then.

9 pm.

I’ve tried to write you a letter with my most pressing thoughts & feelings while trying to relax. I’m getting ready for the climax of my military escapade. If I get to do more later then so be it. But if I don’t I know that I’ve done my very best with what we could expend & taste now.

I miss you & love you. To me I’ve spent the last hour with you while I was writing to you. You were here with me the whole time. I hope when I come home you’ll love me as I imagine that you do.

# # #

Christianity and Western Culture vs the “Fact-Check” Cowards

It seems to me that the whole “fact check” industry is just a front for “I’m afraid to face ideas that run counter to my own thinking”. Fact checkers seem to be simple ideologues who all quote from the same ideological sources. It’s a big echo chamber. And it’s cowardly.

That’s precisely the opposite of why universities (for example) rose up in the first place. Universities were hotbeds of ideas in the middle ages.

I don’t remember the exact citation, but I was surprised to hear that Carl Trueman suggested (around the turn of the year 2000) that the most important “event” in the previous 1000 years was NOT the Reformation – rather, it was what he referred to as “the rise of the universities” in the middle ages.

It was here that all learning and systems of learning came together. It was here that the chain of events began that led to genuine understanding in virtually every field of knowledge.  

… early and high medieval scholasticism is marked by synthetic and systematic thought in all disciplines, the creation of general syllabuses including everything a student needed to know, organized in coherent form.

The goal of pedagogy [teaching] was now to train professional, full-time scholars with a substantive and methodological grasp of entire fields of knowledge, enabling them to push back frontiers [i.e., learn new things] and to defend their own positions against rival views.

Debate with other interpretations, articulated by proponents both living and dead, was expected to take place as a normal condition of intellectual labor.

In all fields, the expression of a range of competing views within the boundaries of acceptable teaching was seen as a natural outgrowth of scholarship and was regarded as invigorating and healthy, not threatening.

From Marcia L. Colish, “Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition: 400–1400”, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, ©1997 [Reprinted 1998], p. 265.

It is this systematization of every discipline (including theology, philosophy, and natural sciences) that led to the Protestant Reformation and also to the development and implementation of the scientific method.

Rodney Stark writes:

As the distinguished historian Edward Grant noted, “Within Western Christianity in the late Middle Ages … almost all professional theologians were also natural philosophers. The structure of medieval university education also made it likely that most theologians had early in their careers actually taught natural philosophy.”

… in the West, Grant explained, “natural philosophy could attract talented individuals who believed that they were free to present their opinions publicly on a host of problems that formed the basis of the discipline.”

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the bond between theology and natural philosophy for the rise of Western civilization. As a result of this bond, the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world became central to the medieval university curriculum and led, ultimately, to the rise of Western science.

Stark, Rodney. How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (p. 183). Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ORD). Kindle Edition.

Not all cultures are alike. Western culture and civilization became what it is because Christianity enabled westerners to have the freedom to explore unknown avenues and to learn what those avenues could teach.

The “fact check” industry wants to shut off other roads. This doesn’t preclude the fact that some people will follow Marx or Q, but these also need to be subjected to questioning by “rival views”.

Above all, we need the kind of openness and honesty that a strong Christian faith will foster. The entire universe is God’s universe. “Fact-checking” as it is practiced today is simply a road back to the dark ages.

Take care of your health!

Taking care of your health means more than just avoiding Covid! I recently turned 60, and my ABMarketing Leads business associate Michael just turned 53. He had a check-up, and he said on Facebook,

“Here is what a 30lb weight gain for this 53yo, during Covid, has caused: 1) blood pressure high enough requiring meds 2) cholesterol high enough requiring meds 3) pre-diabetes 4) likely sleep apnea 5) lack of energy and a few other downers resulting from 14 abnormal lab results. Point being: this surprise hit me like a ton of bricks SO get your check-ups! I will be fine as I drop the weight, eat better, and do more cardio to get back to where I was pre-30lbs. Then push for prime fitness.”

This is the down side of the lockdowns. Even with winter coming, get out and walk! Lift weights if you can, and eat right. Building muscle mass, especially as you are older, is critical. Belly fat = sewage collection for your body. Get rid of it!

The difference between Intelligent Design and Creationism

“The truth is that [Intelligent Design] (ID) and creationism have always differed fundamentally in their methods and starting assumptions. Creationism starts with a commitment to a particular understanding of the biblical text of Genesis and aims to reconcile scientific data with that understanding. [Intelligent Design], on the other hand, starts with a. Commitment to the essential principles of science and shows how those principles ultimately compel us to attribute life to a purposeful inventor—an intelligent designer. [Intelligent Design] authors settle for this vague description not because they want to smuggle God into science but because the jump from “intelligent designer” to “God” requires something beyond the essential principles of science.”

Douglas Axe, “Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed”, New York, NY: HarperOne (HarperCollins) ©2016, p. 48.

Thoughts about Patrick Buchanan

I came across this link on Facebook to an interview with Patrick Buchanan on Facebook, and it prompted some thoughts.

Populism’s Prophet: A Chat with Pat Buchanan

Buchanan is a smart guy, and I took a liking to Trump in 2016 when I first recognized how closely his agenda followed the 2010 Tea Party, and before that, Buchanan’s agenda. Not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence, but very close. There are interviews of Trump from the 1980s, articulating some of his trade policies even back then.

Looking back, I wonder how much Buchanan’s run for President in 1992 was responsible for some of the real trouble that we’re facing. I say this considering Trump’s agenda to be a very good thing, and “the backlash against Trump” as “the trouble we’re facing”.

In one sense Buchanan exposed “the trouble” as a policy option. The second was accidental.

Regarding Buchanan’s nationalism, vs George H.W. Bush’s internationalism — his policies challenged GHW Bush’s “new world order”. The elder Bush in 1990 did a remarkable thing, bringing 35 or so nations together in “Operation Desert Shield”, to oppose Saddam Hussein’s intervention in Kuwait. Perhaps Bush was able to do so by appealing to fear among the middle east nations — “join with me or Saddam may some day conquer you” — but in doing so, he set a pattern that the left has picked up on, and seemingly perfected, in the era of Covid. (“Wear a mask, or you will die”).

The accident was, his Primary challenge weakened Bush in the 1992 General Election, leading to Ross Perot entering the race. Perot won something like 19% of the popular vote, and maybe Electoral votes in one or two states, enabling Bill Clinton to gain the presidency with only 43% of the vote. I don’t know how much of that was due to a cause-and-effect, however.

Clinton himself was a longshot candidate. He finished third in Iowa — but he won New Hampshire. The media picked up on this, and Clinton became the media darling. He himself had been a long-term governor of Arkansas. He was a scoundrel, but more than that. He was intentionally evil.

Later investigations (primarily by Christopher Ruddy, but there were others) portrayed Clinton as having run the state the way a Mafia Don runs his family.

And he had Hillary, the Allinsky-ite, in tow. Together, they crafted the schemes that enriched them and perpetuated their ongoing political power. I believe that the fraud that is so evident in the election that we have just witnessed was modeled after, if not the actual brain-child of some Clinton associates in the Democrat party.

Trump has, in his brief four years, brought a severe challenge to the Clintonite scheming, mostly by functioning as an “anvil” (to the Clintonite “hammer”). Lord willing, Trump will continue as President, to investigate and root out the cancer that the Clintons brought (and exacerbated).