27 April 2010

Killing was easy

"You should have died when I killed you." - John LeCarre

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared. - Psalm 130:3-4

During the course of a conversation last week, I told a client that everyone has secrets. The idea was to help the client feel less isolated. And, it is true. We have all witnessed or participated in events we do not want to share with others. Events we do not care to whisper to ourselves.

The client, who was overcome with guilt, looked up for the first time and asked, “What are your secrets?”

After a thick silence I deflected the question, but the question stayed in the room, long after the counseling session was over.


Last year Warrior’s Rage was published by Navel Institute Press. I fought along side the author, Col. Douglas Macgregor. When the book was being written, I told Doug I did not want my name in the book, mostly because I did not want to be reminded of my own secrets.

After a flurry of phone calls from other soldiers in our unit, I relented and gave consent.

Doug retells a story from our first day of contact with the Iraqi army. He was concerned with an infantry unit that was opening fire as we approached their position …

So I called Cougar Forward and said: “Shoot that son of a b---- on the ridge before he hurts someone.”

Sergeant Rusty Holloway, the gunner for Cougar Forward, obliged with one round from the 25-mm chain gun, killing the Iraqi soldier, who was firing his AK47, taking his head and upper body off at about 1,100 meters with a 25-mm sabot round. After that, the rest of the Iraqi company surrendered, and the shooting subsided.

This was the first time I had seen a man killed in combat. The experience had an electrifying effect on me and on the troops who watched the event, but not the way most people would expect. The accuracy and lethality of the 25-mm chain gun was both terrifying and reassuring. Now we knew our guns worked.

Killing was easy.

We moved north and ran into other Iraqi units; then we engaged the Tawakana Division; then Andy was killed during a Republican Guard counter attack; and then things got ugly for the Iraqis … secrets.

There is something about wanting to stay alive, and keeping your friends alive, that makes killing easy, indeed. Later, after the fact, ending another's life is not so easy … secrets.

For a few hours, after Andy was killed, I completely turned myself over to evil. It was more than just survival reflex.

Later, after the fighting, I experienced depression for the first time in my life. My illusions about humanity, governments, human answers to problems, crumbled like a house of cards. For the first time I experienced how evil people could be, and that included myself.


There are many victims of trauma who find their way to our counseling center. I do not identify with the victims; I identify with the perpetrators of violence. That is my secret.

When I talk about forgiveness, I talk about it in the context of someone who needs to be forgiven, not just to make it to the next life, but in order to make it through this one.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. - Ephesians 1:7

... Father, thank You for being a God of second chances. Thank You for looking past our sins. Father, touch the hearts of those who do not yet know the power of Your redemptive love. We cry out to you in Jesus name ...


  1. Russ thank you for sharing your secret. I feel honored to know you and now understand a little part of you. We all have our share of secrets and with help, spiritual and otherwise we can come to a place where they aren't so frightening anymore.

  2. that post is touching very deeply, Russ.
    Thanks for that.

  3. Oh, what a burden to carry! Thank God for His forgiveness and for giving us the power to forgive ourselves. And praise Him for His peace and comfort to surround us. Thank you for sharing your secret and thank you for allowing others a safe place to share theirs!

  4. what becomes of secrets
    when they are shared
    what happens when
    the truth is bared

  5. What David said. Amen! Good post.

  6. We help each other contain the weight, spread it out, bear each other's burdens. This is exactly how it is done. Thanks for trusting us Russell.

  7. I simply cannot imagine carrying around such a secret, but the truth is I do the same and it has the same effect. The light is a beautiful place and bringing things there breaks the stranglehold they have on us...

    Thank you for opening up and giving such a powerful reminder. This post is going to stick with me and I know I'm going to have to ponder it for a while.

  8. It's not a secret. We do it so others don't have to, and don't have to carry the burden.

  9. We only see our darkest sins as secret because we forget or choose not to think about the fact that the most important Person we face already knows more about us than we even know of ourselves. He knows the extent of our evil. He is sufficient to wash the blood of others from us with His own blood.

    Oh to grace how great a debtor
    Daily I'm constrained to be.
    Let Thy goodness like a fetter
    Bind my wandring heart to Thee.
    Prone to wander! Lord, I feel it—
    Prone to leave the God I love.
    Here's my heart, Lord—take and seal it
    Seal it for Thy courts above.

  10. Jane - Thank you so much.

    Thera - Still looking forward to seeing you this summer.

    Sarah - Thank God for you, too ... :-)

    nAncy - You are my official favorite poet ... :-)

    Duane - Thanks, Bro.

    Jason - Thanks for stopping by, again. I really enjoy your blog.

    Gooch - Scouts out, Brother.

    Anne - There are no secrets ... so true ... :-)

  11. Harvey AverneApril 28, 2010

    Very deep Russel From Harvey @ The BillBoard Awards Conference in Puerto Rico.

  12. you are a man of great courage ...

  13. I am happy to know you, and yet, I know you not...


  14. Harvey-ola! How goes it in PR? Miss you.

    S. - Thank you for stopping by ... :-)

    Wendy - I have heard a lot about you as well. We need to meet ... :-)

  15. I love and adore you brother. This simply proves what we already know, you are human. But a human who humbles himself before God is the most beautiful human we can be, because only then are we Christlike. I love you Rusty.

  16. This made me think... secrets are like shackles and when we open up & surrender our lives to God & reveal all secrets, the shackles fall off and have no power on us anymore. Christ's blood makes us white as snow. I revealed my secrets years ago & I've been living free in the Lord ever since :) God is great!