By Dave Cotner
War is difficult to describe. The first thing one realizes upon arrival in a combat zone is that war is nothing like the movies or television shows in America. There is no background music, and the story is not over in 120 minutes.
War is marked by days of extreme boredom with moments of extreme excitement. Those moments elevate the human emotions to levels hardly experienced in civilian life. Happiness becomes pure delight, anger turns to rage, and sadness becomes sorrow. On July 15, 2008, I experienced the full spectrum of human emotions. On that day, our unit received word that one of our men had been injured in a vehicle accident, as a result of a firefight, in Mosul, Iraq. A few hours later, we learned that Staff Sergeant David W. Textor had died from his injuries. In that moment, war became so very real to me. For the first time, I realized that this was no training exercise – this was no game! Indeed, the summer of 2008 changed my life in a big, big way…
I remember being so angry after this man’s death. Why did God allow such a soldier (a green beret), with a wife and five kids, to leave this earth so far from home? Even with the passage of time, I still do not have all the answers. I do not know why some things happen. Life is so cruel sometimes, and the Iraq War did a great job of slapping this fact in my face.
During the Iraq War, I served as an Army Intelligence Analyst and was charged with the task to “find, know, and never lose the enemy.” I became obsessed with “the hunt” and wanted to know the “why” of everything. When Staff Sergeant Textor died, I realized that for all my efforts, knowledge, and ability, there are just some things that I can never prevent, namely, good soldiers dying so far from home.
You know, war has a way of proving that we are not in control of anything. Listen to the words of Nick Swarthout (one of my best friends and fellow Iraq War Veteran) as he recounts one of the most sobering events of his life: “While sleeping on the second floor of one of Saddam’s mother-in-law’s mansions, a rocket landed in the front yard. Never in my life have I experienced such a feeling of hopelessness and insecurity. There I lay in my boxers, all of my equipment and weapons downstairs, its 6:00 in the morning, and I am tucked safely in a bed completely surrounded by ¾ inch plywood walls as the only thing that stood between me and the corridor of glass windows in front of me. All I could think about was how much closer to me than the front yard are the other 36 rockets going to land? And which one is going to be the one to land in my ready-made coffin of a bedroom? Fortunately, that rocket was flying solo into our front yard that morning, and again, by the grace of God, I am here to type these stories for you.”
Dr. Jeff Newman (one of my former professors at Faith Baptist Bible College) once stated, “There are no accidental moments.” Yes, nothing in our life happens by accident. God has a plan for our lives, and He is working all things for our good. It was not by accident that Staff Sergeant Textor died in the war, while my friend, Nick, survived. In both cases, God remained good and sovereign. I simply have to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God no matter what. The Bible states in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
In the end, God is able to use all of the events in our lives to bring us into a new and better relationship with Himself. God used the Iraq War to show me His tremendous goodness and sovereignty despite the tragedies of this life. My life is to be lived for Him because He alone is God, and I am not…Nick Swarthout states it best when he says, “I have been shot at, scared, bombed, terrified, intimidated, stressed, lonely, and anxious, depressed, blown up, attacked, and broken down, all of which have led me to my life’s purpose that I have found in Him, to bring Him honor, glory, and praise through my worship to Him and my service for Him and His people.” Yes, in life and death, and in war and peace, everything is about God, loving Him and serving Him – or hating Him and rejecting Him…The choice is yours…