Peace Sunday Remarks, 13 Sep 2015
When Pastor Jan asked me to say a few words today about “[my] commitment to this nation and
to the ultimate cause of peace on earth,” I immediately agreed and thought about how very
fundamental to my being that commitment has been, and always will be.
However, as soon I sat down to compile my thoughts I began to struggle with how to effectively
articulate that American patriotism and peace go hand-in-hand…that there is a time, a place, and
a necessity to fight…and still be true to God. Rarely is a situation black or white…but I believe
this to be true: God wants love and peace and hates war and hatred. So then, the question is
raised, as Christians, how can we possibly justify the need to fight in any way that is acceptable
before God and in the cause for peace?
I reached out to my friend Steve; pastor, retired AF chaplain, and current professor of divinity at
Liberty University to discuss the topic. We had a very interesting conversation and I concluded
that there is enough on the topic to write several volumes…in addition to those already written.
So I will relay to you in my simplest of explanations, why I believe that my deep commitment to
supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States is fundamental to the pursuit of
peace on earth.
During my career, I have been to more than 25 countries around the world, to include
Afghanistan, Russia, and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea…where you can see the fear
or desperation in people’s eyes and hearts. I’ve seen oppression…and I kiss the ground every
time I return to the land of the free. I also correspond with friends I have made in militaries from
more than 14 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Peru, Mexico, and Afghanistan. One thing is
common among my friends and colleagues…the world over…none of us like war, we all want
our children protected and all want them to have every opportunity…to be free from
oppression…we all want peace…and we all acknowledge that in order to pursue peace,
sometimes we have to fight for it.
I have a dear friend who is a Colonel in the Afghan Air Force. He is in his mid-50’s and has
known war his whole life. He is a moderate Afghan who loves his wife and children dearly. His
wife is educated and he wants his children, boys and girls, to be educated. When we were at the
Air War College together, he asked me for pictures of women flying combat aircraft so that he
could use them to show his children, and others…the possibilities that freedom brings. He loves
America and is appreciative of our fight against the oppression of the Taliban…he fears for when
we leave. He calls me sister and I call him brother…an Afghan doesn’t call someone brother or
sister lightly…especially sister.
I actually received an email from my Afghan brother yesterday, his English is not polished, he
wrote: Hello my sister. How Eddie and you are doing? I hope you are OK! I know that you are
listening news about Afghanistan. We are suffering from ongoing war. Which daily take at least
the life of tenth innocent Afghans. Every day when our children go out for school we have
irritating concern until the return, I am sure you can feel my feeling. Nowadays the intelligent
reports said that the Hakany network has a plan to put the magnetic explosive devises on the
military personal house gates at night and the morning when the door get open it will explode.
Which is very difficult to prevent. Any way our life is not like a life. We are threatened
everywhere(at home- road- restaurant- market- office—et).
Our political leaders have not always made the right decisions, and things don’t always go the
way we envision…but you cannot negotiate with evil. In today’s globalized world…what affects
one, affects all. I know that if evil is targeting Christians, Westerners, Jews, Muslims, the weak,
etc. in one part of the world…the American homeland is in its sights. In his daily devotion book,
Hope for Each Day, Billy Graham writes, “But evil is real, and we ignore it at our peril.”
I hate war. I am deeply committed to my Lord and Savior. I love my country, I love the
constitutional principles upon which it was founded, I love my God, and I love peace…this is
why I was, and still am, prepared to give my life in the defense of freedom and the pursuit of
I believe that peace comes from God…from the Holy Spirit working inside a person. I also
believe that evil exists…mercilessly unrelenting to disrupt peace…and often with no regard or
respect for human life. I believe that God wants us to pray for our enemies, but that when evil
controls the hearts and souls of those enemies, it must be destroyed or there will never be peace.
Nearly 1600 years ago, “as Rome had lost its control of the world and was quickly falling to
other powers,”1 the Christian thinker, Augustine sought to characterize the conditions under
which war could be waged justly. “For Augustine, war was a logical extension of the act of
governance…and governance itself was…ordained by God, Romans 13. 1-7.”2 He went on to try
to answer the questions, “when is it justified for a nation to wage war on another?… and what
sorts of conduct are morally acceptable within war?”3
Augustine outlined the criteria to answer these two questions: “in order for a nation to have a
moral right to wage war it must have: 1) Just authority…based on a legitimate political and legal
process, 2) Just Cause…war is the appropriate response, 3) Right Intention…is the response
proportional, 4) Last Resort…war remains the only option.” Once the decision is made to go to
war, then the conduct of war must be governed by, 1) “Proportionality…the allowable force
measured against the force required, 2) Discrimination…innocent, non-military people should
never be made the target of attacks, 3) Responsibility…a country is not responsible for
unexpected side effects of its military activity as long as the action was intended for good
consequences, the bad effects were not intended, and the good of war outweighs the damage
done by it.”4
In his 1 September 2001 article, A Time for War, Robert L. Holmes says that Augustine,
concluded that “the appropriate motive for war in all cases…is love. What is done from love of
God must be good.”5 “Augustine is noted in history as the founder of the Just War Theory in the
Western tradition”6 …and Just War Theory principles are the foundation of today’s US military
operations and rules of engagement.
For example, I have flown hundreds of hours over Iraq and Afghanistan during five different
periods over the past 14 years. Each time I returned to the theater of operations, the rules of
engagement had changed based on the conditions on the ground and we took painstaking
measures to protect civilians and only target combatants. If there was any question that innocent
civilians may be around, then we would fly low, fast, and loud in an attempt to try to “scare” or
put the enemy heads down long enough so that our forces on the ground could, either escape
danger, or move in to ensure that only the bad guys were targeted. This is just one small
example of application of the Just War Theory principles…proportionality and discrimination.
Everywhere I have served with the US military, evil has been targeted and we’ve worked to help
rebuild for the innocent peace-loving people of those nations that just want a better life for their
Our United States military is an instrument of national power, but power doesn’t just mean
kinetic military action, it also means influence. Our US military is currently engaged literally
around the world in humanitarian operations, building wells, schools, teaching, running field
hospitals etc. When we show up…in whatever capacity…it is a symbol of hope for the
oppressed and those in distress who are at the receiving end of evil in action. It is a symbol of
freedom and hope…and that hope is for peace. I am not here to discuss politics, international
relations, whether past decisions on our nation going to war were justified or not, or the fact that
in war there are unintended consequences and bad things sometimes happen. I am here to share
my conviction that, despite any of those things, peace is worth pursuing…in all ways. Without
security, there is no peace.
Before closing, I want to share a couple of short vignettes from friends of mine…a quick glimpse
into the hearts of a couple of service members whose profession is peace…
US Air Force Major, Paul Lauret, F-16 pilot, was watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
with his 6-year-old son sitting on the couch. During one particularly frightening part featuring a
rather malevolent character, his son looked up at him during a quiet moment in the scene and
asked, “Daddy, when you fly your plane, do you protect me from the bad guys?” After catching
his breath, he looked down at his son, smiled and said, “yes baby, that is my job. I protect you
from the bad guys.”
US Army Major Eric Kail reflected that the reason he serves is simple, it’s what he feels called
to do. His best friend was killed in a helicopter accident just the week prior to Dale Earnhardt’s
death. Eric says the fact is that what we do is dangerous, and every time we step on to that
helicopter or climb into the cockpit we wonder for a second what the world would be like for our
families if we never saw them again because of that step. The only thing more unsettling is the
thought of what the world would be like for our families if no one took that step.
Robert L. Holmes wrote, “Because God judges the soul, the ultimate question is not ‘what the
man does…but with what mind and will he does it.” It is my conviction that peace cannot exist
without patriotism. It is that very “freedom [we enjoy as Americans] that enables us to actively
promote and work for peace.”7
Thanks be to God.
1 “Augustine: Just War,” Great Philosophers,
2 “A Fact Sheet on Just War Theory, Thoughts on Applying The Christian Tradition’s Guidelines For Waging War,”
Break Point, http://www.breakpoint.org/component/content/article/71-features/1583-a-fact-sheet-on-just-war-
theory, (September 25, 2006)
3 Augustine: Just War, 1.
4 Ibid., 2.
5 Robert L. Holmes, “A Time For War?” Christianity Today, (September 2001): 1-2.
6 Augustine: Just War, 1.
7 Pastor Jan Hryniewicz, (September 8, 2015)