Rambling on Threats and the Assumption

[author’s note: from our time on deployment to Iraq.]

August 15, 2010

Part of my current job is to play the bad guy. Oh sure, you know me as a meek, humble, quiet, unassuming man of God, but in the Army, when you’re the deputy anything you have to be the bad guy. It works like this: the boss gives all the good news and congratulations, but the second in command gives the bad news, dispenses discipline and generally makes life miserable for those who are messing up, incompetent and otherwise in need of a swat. As the Deputy Command Chaplain, with supervision over about thirty Soldiers—Chaplains and their assistants—it is up to me dispense justice and correction, in other words to be the bad guy.

Now you would think that a group of Chaplains and assistants would need little or no correction or guidance, but your assumption is wrong. There are times, due to human frailty I’m sure, that such supervised Soldiers act like “non compos mentis,” that’s Latin for “nincompoops.” So I’ve had to develop certain threats and warnings commensurate with the stupidity of the offending person. Note: this is not something we should do in civilian life (threats), this goes on in the military because it’s an effective means of getting the offender’s attention. An example of one used recently is: “If you do that again I’ll have two large MPs (military policemen) remove your trousers, OVER YOUR HEAD!”

Other favorite warnings come to mind: “If you are in my office again I’ll throw you into the desert with one canteen of water, and I will personally poison the water.” This may sound extreme but it is certainly effective. “Come to me with that excuse again and I’ll put a scorpion in your shorts.” (I’m not sure but I think I used that one on Fr. Sorenson once.) “If you’re going to complain put a hand grenade in your mouth and pull the pin.” (I know I said that to Fr. Vince at least once, maybe a lot more.) And last but not least “Come to me again with that nonsense and you’ll be cleaning all 2,000 toilets on this base with a toothbrush until there’s world peace.”

As happy and uplifting as all these thoughts, warnings and threats are they do not in any way resemble the example of the Virgin Mary as we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. One who gives herself totally to God, one who finds God’s solace in sorrow, one who labors in the home and in the world with humility and patience has no need of threats. Her life, the life of the Mother of God, is an example of simplicity and gentleness which causes us to look to heaven where she was taken up and give thanks to God.

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