One Day in Class …

David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.  At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah.  In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were.  When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

  • 2 Samuel 11:10-17

Sometimes, when you are all alone, trying to make sense out of this broken, fallen world, you get a memory that is so vivid.  You can almost remember the conversation verbatim.  I trust God’s guidance.  There is probably someone out there reading this that can benefit.

I have written about the six-foot-something tall major who taught my senior year classes of ROTC.  He’s the one who ridiculed me for being a reactionary in front of the class.  He’s the one, while playing on the Army’s intramural basketball team, who had one foul left and he begged the coach to put him in because he knew which opponent that he would use that foul on.  He introduced me to credit unions and their benefits over banks.  He introduced me to USAA (United Services Automobile Association), an insurance company devoted to those who are serving or have served in the military.  I think that I have mentioned him regarding other things that have come up, but this memory was buried deep.

One day in class, the major gave a definition of strategy and tactics.

The Oxford definition of strategy is: a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.  The Oxford definition of tactics is: an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

Hmmm. With those definitions, what’s the difference?  The major said that strategy was above our pay grade.  It was what the colonels and generals did with a big map spread over a table, pushing toy cannons and tanks around.  But tactics was done in the trenches, moving forward one step at a time, trying your best to carry out the orders of the strategic guy in the safe bunker, far from the action in the field.

He then gave each of us a topographical map, blown up so that we could see the fine details.  He had drawn the military map symbol for a bunker on top of the hill.  He also drew on the map where our platoon was located, at the bottom of the hill, with no cover between us and the enemy’s machine gun, set up in the bunker.

The major said, “Okay, Lieutenants (all though we were just officer candidates at the time), your orders are to take the hill.”

It may have only been a minute into the paper exercise, but all the other candidates were drawing lines on the map, moving fire teams and the weapon squad from one position to another.  They were writing meticulous orders for each squad, each fire team, and each pair of men (before the days of women in combat, so, please, no offense intended).

I stared at the map.  Going straight ahead was suicide.  Going to the left was difficult due to the steep terrain.  Going to the right was easier, but the enemy probably had some surprises planned for that.  Besides, I had to plan two attacks.  One that would attract the enemy’s attention while the other could move close enough for ultimate success.

The major came by my table and asked, “Do you have a problem, Lieutenant?”

I replied, “These guys have names.”

The major smiled and said, “You win the bonus points for the day.  These other yahoos are moving people around on a piece of paper with no thought that they are moving men, people who they have gotten to know… moving them into harm’s way.  You though, you understand the true difference in strategy and tactics, which was the focus of this exercise.  I doubt if you will make the Army a career, but you could be like Omar Bradley someday.  But even Omar Bradley knew that if you stay where you are, you will not accomplish your objective and what will eventually happen to your men, Lieutenant?”

I replied, “It’s like the beachheads of the Pacific in World War II.  If you stay on the beach, you will eventually die.  A stray bullet will get you, or they’ll adjust their artillery to wipe you out faster.”

The major said, “Good answer.  So, no more hesitation, but since you know these guys have names, think about this, Joe here is a single orphan.  No one will miss him.  Doesn’t even have a girlfriend.  Fred over here, he has a wife and three kids, and his wife is pregnant with number four.  Who do you send up the hill?”

Before I could answer, he added, “But let me give you a little more information about those two men.  Joe is inexperienced and might not get very far.  Fred has better skills, with more experience, and he affords you the best chance of accomplishing the mission.”  He paused.  “And relax, for today, this is just a paper exercise.  Regardless of the decisions you make today, Joe and Fred get to sleep in their own beds tonight.  But in six months, it could be completely different.”

There had been a ceasefire in Vietnam at the time, but we knew people were still exchanging fire.  We had no idea that the last troops would leave Vietnam a week before we graduated.

In the Scripture above, we see king David trying to cover up for his illicit affair with Bathsheba.  When Uriah would not lay down with his wife due to a sense of military honor, David went from making strategic decisions for his army to making a horrible tactical move, leaving Uriah in a deadly situation with no escape except death.

Pray for those in harm’s way around the world, regardless of the battle, and pray for those people who must make the tactical and strategic decisions.  Their decisions make the difference in whether your neighbor returns home safely or dies in battle.

And pray that they all come to know Jesus.  For it would be a double tragedy for someone to have his life cut short without knowing the One who could save his soul.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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