I've been thinking a lot about Mikey Weinstein, the atheist who is leading the charge against Christians in the military. Let me tell you a story.
In November of 1967 I arrived in Vietnam. I was what was known as a "butter bar," a green second lieutenant, just eight months out of Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. I was 22 years old. My first two weeks "in country" were spent at a "reception station" where all of us got some additional training and acclimated to the heat and the time change. Finally, my orders came through to go to a specific unit. They came late at night and I had to report immediately to an infantry battalion that was leaving in the morning to back up the 4rth Infantry Division. They were in some deep, deep #%&@ in a place called Dak To in the Central Highlands. Needless to say my stomach was churning just a bit.
So, close to midnight, I arrived in the battalion area. My first duty was to report to the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel. I was told that he was in the officers club (just a large tent with a makeshift bar) with all the other officers of the unit. I thought that probably they were having a tactical meeting in preparation for the next day's festivities. Not quite. When I entered, I discovered that they were well into their "cups." Yes, they were getting drunk the night before a large combat mission. That was a bit disturbing.
I reported to the battalion commander. He ordered the bartender to get me a beer. That's when the difficulty started. I thanked him, but told him I'd take a Coke instead. (I had grown up in a conservative Christian community and, at the time, didn't drink alcohol of any kind.) The battalion commander stared at me. Then, he ordered me to drink a beer. Can you imagine a more surreal situation? What weird dimension had I entered? As politely as possible, I declined his order. I knew it was illegal, but I really, really didn't want to offend the man. That's not a good way to go into combat.
Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin (I will never forget his name) proceeded to lock my heels, standing me at attention and, for the next hour, in front of all the other officers of the battalion, he berated me for not drinking, for being married (yes, that too) and for being a second lieutenant. Over and over he ordered me to drink and over and over I politely declined. (Let's be honest, at a certain point I would have drunk acid before I drank one of his beers.) Now, I didn't announce that I was a Christian. But that was obvious because back then about the only people who didn't drink were Christians or Mormons. The man was drunk, so after an hour I just wore him out. Finally, he gave up.
A week or two later the chaplain took me aside and told me that he admired me for the stand I had taken against the bully. But neither he nor any other officer stood up for me that night. Strangely, I didn't write to my mommy and daddy, complaining about the harassment that I had received. I didn't complain ten months later either. By that time I was a combat experienced first lieutenant and the executive officer of a rifle company in the same battalion. A captain arrived to take command of the company. He was a West Pointer. When he found out that I was a Christian who had attended the Moody Bible Institute he announced that he was an ex-Christian who had once learned a hundred Bible verses and been involved with a campus ministry. But he could only mock me so far because I had more combat experience than he did. While he could mock my faith, which he did, he couldn't mock me as a man or a combat officer.
What's the point of this? I've read the story of Mikey Weinstein and his son who both complained bitterly that Christians had harassed them at the Air Force Academy. Let me be clear, I don't believe in harassing anyone ever for their religious beliefs or lack of them. (There are plenty of other reasons to harass people that are far more enjoyable.) But Christians have been harassed in the military for almost 2000 years. (Read the story that comes out of ancient Rome called the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. They were the pride of the Roman army and they died for their faith.) As a Christian, you expect harassment and discrimination. It comes with the territory wherever you are. So suck it up.
I don't think the real issue for Mikey Weinstein is oppression because of his atheism. Neither do I think it's oppression because he and his son are Jews. I've known brave, tough soldiers who were atheists and Jews. They could take anything thrown at them and they have my eternal respect both as men and warriors. I think the real issue for Mikey Weinstein and his son is gutlessness. They are wusses. Mama's boys. I've known boys like this in the army. They couldn't take the heat. While the other men were sucking it up and going through the rough training, they were writing to their Congressman.
The military is a crucible. It brings out the best or the worst in a person. If you are a whiner and a complainer you get no respect and that must haunt you. I suppose it might make you furious enough to spend the rest of your life lashing out at those you blame for your own failure. I'm sure it would be important to convince yourself that, in reality, you aren't a coward, you're really a defender of freedom. I feel sorry for Mikey Weinstein and his son. They should have our pity, not our anger.
Coleman Luck is a Hollywood writer/executive producer known for such television series as The Equalizer and Gabriel's Fire. A native of Wheaton, Illinois, Coleman is a Life Member of the Writers Guild of America, West. He is also a mentalist and a member of the Academy of Magical Arts at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. Angel Fall, his first novel, was published in 2009. His second, The Mentalist Prophecies - Book One: Dagon's Illusion, was published in February 2013.
Coleman lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central California near Yosemite National Park with his wife of 46 years, Carel Gage Luck, a fine artist. They have three adult children.
Coleman is a decorated combat veteran. In 1968, as an Army infantry First Lieutenant, he led a rifle platoon with the Mobile Riverine Force in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. His personal awards and decorations include two Bronze Stars, one for valor and one for service, three Army Commendation medals, all for valor, the Air Medal and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.