So there are atheists in foxholes

Last week, my friend and colleague Rich Liebson, an Army vet, sent me a notice about a local church having a Mass for members of the Armed Forces.

Somehow, we started talking (emailing, really) about the old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Rich recalled something he wrote a few years ago about an Army specialist who served in Iraq and was suing the Department of Defense, saying that his open atheism ruined his military career. He called the military a Christian organization.

The guy, a former Baptist, had become something of an atheist in a foxhole.

Oddly enough, Rich was reading Stars and Stripes yesterday, something he often does, and came across a letter from a staff sergeant in Iraq calling himself — you guessed it — an atheist in a foxhole.

He writes, in part:

*****

This is my second deployment to Iraq and I have traveled more than 8,000 miles “outside the wire” to several bases in northern Iraq. I’m a gun truck vehicle commander and responsible for securing personnel, supplies and equipment when in transportation between bases.

Every day that I leave the wire, I travel knowing of the inherent risks and, though I am confident that most risks to life and limb are negated by the armored MRAP and IED-defeating technology that protects me, I am not invincible; each new day could potentially be my last (literally). And although lately this has resulted in my near paranoiac fear of a catastrophic kill, I satisfactorily (and safely) complete the assigned task — as I have every intention of returning home to my lovely wife, who is also an atheist, and to whom I am faithful.

*****

There are more than 100 (pretty civilized) comments at the end of his letter, which are worth reading if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.