View Full Version : Service in the military 'a calling'

12-16-03, 07:37 AM
Service in the military 'a calling'
December 15,2003

In the past, military services Archbishop Edwin O'Brien has challenged the use of war as a means to intervene in the Persian Gulf.

But with thousands of troops still in Iraq and the news of the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, O'Brien says if force must be used, it must be used in a way to bring about change.

"There was a point when we didn't know if all the options had been exhausted, and we challenged the government to make sure," O'Brien said after taking part in a Sunday Mass at St. Francis Xavier Chapel at Camp Lejeune.

"War always has to be the last resort. Now we just have to trust the government, and the task is to now bring about a peaceful society where justice will be restored."

O'Brien said that at one point, it was questionable if there were weapons of mass destruction. But then people from all sides started concluding there were such weapons.

"We have to trust that the government tried to bring about disarmament," he said.

O'Brien, a Vietnam veteran and former chaplain of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, visited Lejeune as part of his duties as archbishop of the U.S. military to watch over the pastoral care of Catholics in the armed services and to attend the base's reception with the Knights of Columbus.

"It is a noble profession to serve and not be served," he said to the group of service members who attended the Mass. "It is a calling to offer one's life for their neighbor."

O'Brien said anytime there is war, there are adversities service members face between what they have to do and their convictions.

"There is a heavy burden on you if life, especially as innocent as children, was taken intentionally, then you're conscious should ache," O'Brien said. "But if life is taken accidentally, there is no reason for guilt."

"If it is justifiable, those men and women are going to have to be humble enough to realize that and forgive themselves."

Unfortunately, he added, that even after Sunday's capture of Hussein, there is still work that service members have to continue.

"It's going to take awhile to get the structures in place for a country that was in slavery," he said.

O'Brien, who will make his second trip to Iraq on Saturday, said there is a picture that the families left behind don't see, which makes it difficult to understand why their loved ones haven't returned home.

"The big story is not being shown," he said. "The media thrives on confrontation, Iraq is not even mentioned unless there are killings that are taking place."

O'Brien continued to say that family members are deprived of seeing the schools that are open and the freedom of speech that is taken place all because of the presence of the service members.

"The loved ones wish they could be home, but they see the good they're doing, not just for over there but it's for us too here, too," he said. "They're instruments of justice, and the question is where would we be without them."

Contact Kinea White at kwhite@ jdnews.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 235.