Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In the Army Now! - The Hales' Journey (Part Two)

Warrior Clint - Lean, mean cigar-chomping fighting machine, who helped keep the world safe for democracy for four years

Now, I had tried my hand at college. Honestly, I was (and am) a very good student. However, my dedication to learning was conspicuously absent by the end of my first college attempt. So the military seemed like a decent idea. I mean who could complain about wearing camo uniforms and shooting at stuff all the time, right? Well, it didn’t really turn out that way.

I joined the US Army not long after I turned 19. Two buddies also joined at the same time and a few months later, we arrived at Basic Training. The recruiters had shown us video of soldiers acting like Rambo. In reality, I spent more time doing janitorial work than “Rambo” stuff. That carried over in my regular duty station. I truly could not wait to get out of the military and try college one more time.

During my time in the Army, I was forced to pay attention to something that we like to ignore: death. I trained all the time for being adept and efficient in causing death and mayhem. That was my job. In fact, I had a very specific job that dealt with this. I was a sniper. I learned to crawl in terrible conditions to horrid locations in order to kill.

Having to consider the reality of death on such a frequent basis led to two things in my life. First, I tried to numb my brain as much as possible. Weekends were almost always devoted to drinking myself into a stupor. It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t become an alcoholic. I was just looking for some way to ignore death again. The second thing I did was start to consider my own mortality. The fact was that if I was placed in a true combat situation, there was a high likelihood that I would not survive. That scared me.

Somehow, in all of that fog, I began to consider God. I don’t think I even realized it at first. But for the first time in my life, I realized that the world would continue to revolve without me and that my place in the world was not to be the center of attention. So I began a quest, unconsciously at first, to find what I was created to do.

Finally, my enlistment was up. I returned to Texas, got a job and decided to become a coach/teacher. Summers off sounded fantastic. So I enrolled in the local college (not the one I had originally attended) and resumed my studies. I had planned on focusing upon football and math. Really, Chemistry had always been my favorite subject, but there were too many labs involved. Math was something else that I really enjoyed, so I figured I could handle spending the next few decades teaching it. Unfortunately, my advisor informed me that I needed to take one more English course. I was livid. I hated English courses.

Finally, we got it worked out. I would take some of my general education requirements, as well as Calculus (I had passed Pre-Cal and Trig before the Army stint) and an “intro to lit” class. The advisor recommended that I take college algebra to refresh my math memory, but in my egotistical way, I told him that I didn’t see any reason to go backwards in subject matter. It seemed that things were finally turning in the right direction for me. I even started attending church on most Sundays.

But things weren’t going as smoothly as I thought…


Fr. Gregory Jensen said...

Fr James,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for posting Clint's journey to

His description of life in the military, and what it meant for him personally to train as a sniper, was especially moving. It is easy for us who have not spent time in the military to forget the great personal burden that this is.

Like many military personnel, Clint risked not only his life for others but also his emotional and spiritual health. Please convey to him my gratitude for not his service but the service of his comrades.

In Christ,

Fr Gregory

Clint said...

Thank you Fr. Gregory. I appreciate the encouragement.

Katrina said...

Love the captions under the photos Fr James! ROFL!

Clint, you've got me on the edge of my seat...I love every "journey to Orthodoxy" story! Each one is so unique, and yet also so familiar in the heart's yearning for the Truth.

Clint said...

Katrina, I should point out that the captions are all vintage Fr. James....

I don't make those up...

I do wish that asian football team had really drafted me, though...

Fr. James Early said...

Yes, indeed...this is a sweet deal for me. Clint has to do the writing, and all I have to do is tease him (one of my greatest talents)! :-)

charlene said...

I started out a week behind on my reading, but I am racing to catch up. Like Katrina, I am also on the edge of my seat, wanting to hear what you have to say next. Keep writing.
Father James,
Thank you for making us privy to Clint's story.