St. Barnabas shares letter from wounded soldier

Published 10:51 pm Friday, September 23, 2011

The following letter was forwarded to our Military Liaison Officer from one of the units Saint Barnabas Anglican Church supports. It is not a letter of tragic news, nor is  it some form of hype and hyperbole deemed to support one cause, or another. This letter embodies the essential nature of courage and commitment. It embodies for us, the nature of belief, in something greater than ourselves.

It reads:

“Greetings family and friends, I just wanted you to know I’m fine and in good spirits. Two days ago, during a combat patrol in urban bizarre (Shembowat Valley) my element was ambushed with small arms fire and hand grenades. I was targeted and the hand grenade landed 5 feet from me. I yelled “grenade” spun around and got 2/3 steps before it exploded. Eventually, the medics caught up to me and took care of me by placing tourniquet on right leg to stop the bleeding. I will keep the leg…no worries.

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 “I was ground evacuated to Camp Clark and then MEDEVAC chopper flew me to MASH. Flight surgeon stuck IV in my neck…should of seen my face when they attempted that! It was the only place they could find to stick being all wrapped up. Took about 1 hour to get to hospital which is good considering the different modes of  transportation. My right ankle is fractured…11 Staples on right side from buttocks to foot…12 pieces of shrapnel still inside my body. Not sure if they’re going to remove with another surgery…I’ll let you know.

“Anyway, the next day I heard them talking about evac to Germany so I convinced them not to evac and remain with unit. They cut a deal with me to observe first and if I could not care for myself…they would force me…I think everything will be OK. Pretty easy…I’ll just perk-up around the doctors when they change dressings and remove staples!

 “The funny thing is SGT Barber (my body guard since Iraq) is currently on R&R leave and so I had to replace with a temporary body guard. He’s a good kid and it’s not his fault…he was hit by shrapnel too and we both were dodging bullets as we ran  down the street to [a] secure location. That adrenaline is amazing stuff…until the tourniquet was placed…then it really started to suck…hurt like hell. 30 years and they finally got the old sarge. Well, take care everyone…cannot wait to come home. Thanks for your continued support…all my love…sincerely and respectfully. Drew.  P.S. Chris, please call Bobby Hornberger, Jeffrey, and Russell…thank you.  [signed] Drew E. Pumarejo Brigade Command Sergeant Major 3BCT, 1ID “Task Force Duke” FOB Salerno, Afghanistan.”

My comments:

Brigade Sgt. Major Pumarejo could have taken an easier path for, after all, with 30 years of dedicated service and such high rank, he could have chosen a “safer” place to be. With all these years, he could even retire. He could have chosen to put someone else in his stead for the combat patrol on those dusty, desperate streets in that far off corner of the world. Instead, he chose to be on the ‘front lines” with his “team” and support ours, yes our, campaign against evil in the world.

For Christians, Saint Joseph of Arimathaea is one of the more obscure New Testament  characters. All that is known about Joseph comes from the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ burial. Though Saint John speaks of Joseph as a secret disciple of our Lord and associates him with Nicodemus, another member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who was drawn to Jesus Christ, we know nothing of any further activity of these men in the early Christian community. However, legends developed about the leadership they offered to the Church. One of the more attractive legends is the story of Joseph’s coming to the ancient Church of Glastonbury in Britain and bringing with him the Holy Grail.

Saint Joseph’s fame, and the rightness of our reverence and remembrance, does not depend upon such legends, however beautiful and romantic they may be. When our Lord’s most intimate disciples were hiding for fear of the authorities, Joseph came forward boldly and courageously, not only to do what was  demanded by Jewish piety, but also to act generously and humanely by providing his own tomb for the decent and proper burial of Jesus’ body, thus saving it from further desecration. This was no small feat and it carried with it no small amount of personal risk. Joseph of Arimathaea could easily have remained safely anonymous and securely on the sideline, but he found within himself the courage to do what the Twelve could not.

The First Duke of Wellington and victor over Napoleon at Waterloo, used to speak of what he called “three o’clock in the morning” courage. He said, “What a man thinks, does, determines, when things are at their worst, makes or mars his future. Bitter disappointment, broken trust, the fading of cherished hopes, precipitate a crisis for every soul thus tried; for the soul must choose hate, bitterness, and despair; or have the courage to  choose the way of forgiveness and heroic endurance.”

It was not easy to step up against the authorities. Joseph of Arimathaea’s actions spoke for him. By his merciful deed, he risked being painted with Jesus’ heresy, as one who also deserved crucifixion for betrayal, or so the leaders of the Sanhedrin might have viewed him. Yet, Joseph had the courage, the courage to step out and be counted for Christ, when Jesus’ twelve closest friends were still too confused and dazed and frightened to leave the dubious safety of the locked, upper room.

Courage, often such rare a commodity, is always needed and never more so than when carrying out the mission of a higher calling than ourselves. In Saint Joseph’s  time, it was dangerous, out and out dangerous, to be associated with Jesus. Just recall the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr and you know the kind of trouble in which Christians could find themselves. How is it that so many flocked to Jesus, to the Church, to the Gospel? How is it that so many braved the possible, for the sake of that lonely, crucified, carpenter from Galilee?

Yes, those were frightening times, as the times are now; times to make one’s courage shrink away with their tail between their legs. Nevertheless, many did not and do not. Many find the courage to stand for what is right and proper and good. Are these without fear, gifted with some supernatural ability to be resolute and fearless in the face of persecution and adversity? We doubt it.

Fear is a innate  human trait and a personal reality for all people, since time immemorial. They simply rise above their fears. As Eddie Rickenbacker once said, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” We can believe Brigade Sgt. Major. Pumarejo was scared.

There is an organization out there entitled “Dependent Order of the Really Meek and Timid Souls”? When you make an acronym of the first letters of its name, you have the word “Doormats.” The Doormats have an official insignia: a yellow caution light. Their official motto is, “The meek shall inherit the earth, if that’s OK with everybody!” Upton Diskson founded the society after he wrote a pamphlet called “Cower Power.”

The faith we know and the hope we enjoy and share was not passed down by members of the  “Doormats.” True liberty is not about serving oneself, but serving others and a higher calling, by the grace of God. However, this then begs the question: “What about us? Will we be doormats? Or, will we be courageous? As Saint Paul tells us, we are to put on the armor of light and the helmet of salvation as we go boldly forward.

Let us remember the war against evil, in the hearts of humankind, is forever. Let us remember, as promised, it is to the truly vigilant who receive the grace of God for their struggles. Let us remember those who courageously sacrifice for us, as we boldly go forward in the name of truth, honor and the glory of God.

Update: Recent information is that Sgt. Major Pumajero is in full recovery and still on active duty in Afganistan. With his injury, he will no longer be able to jump out of perfectly good aircraft, so he shall be retiring in January 2012.