Below is the essay I was required to write as part of the application process for the Army Officer Candidate school. The title isn’t mine – it’s part of the guidelines for the essay. Of course I left out certain motivations, such as “to lift up and encourage the saints who are there,” and “we need the money.”
The first time I considered joining the Army was shortly after September 11, 2001. That was the first time it became spotlessly clear to me that every individual and every organization is responsible to God, not on the basis of their capacity, but their potential. Only America could be the “world’s policeman,” so America, by Providence, is – whether we want it or not. And therefore the role of defending civilization planted itself on our doorstep. Applied to myself as a Christian man, I have a responsibility to provide leadership and protection for my family, for my church, and for my country.
I believe I’ve always had a strong sense of duty and purpose, but before 9/11, my mindset was individualistic and compartmentalized. Since that time, as I’ve added the concrete responsibilities of being a husband and father, attended seminary, taught in a school, and been manager over a work group, my conviction has grown that an individualized, compartmental understanding of loyalty is an inappropriate luxury. We’re called to give our whole lives in service, not just the pieces that are directly compensated. I can’t think of a better place to give my whole life than in the U.S. Army, and I believe that, within the army, the best way I can put all my resources to service is as an officer. I have a relatively broad background of experience and training, and my focus has usually been to find the best goals, the best methods, and the most effective ways to communicate those goals and methods. I believe that this focus would mesh well with the role of an officer.
Over against the impression you might get from some Army recruitment ads, joining the Army isn’t really about the personal benefits to be gained from Army training and service – career skills, self-discipline, integrity, respect. It’s about the service rendered to a homeland because it is due – “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” At the same time, it’s hard to deny the benefits that accrue, especially to an officer. There is no other organization that can bring about the dramatic character improvement that I’ve seen in folks who’ve served with the U.S. Military, with the possible exception of the church, which has the benefit of a supernatural act of God. As an Army Officer, that benefit would be compounded. Not only would I have the advantage of the advance training that comes with Officer Candidate School, but my chain of command would be composed of those who’ve been similarly trained.
Ultimately, I want to be an Army officer because I believe that I have a duty before God to serve my country in a more fundamental way than merely voting. At the same time, I want to serve in such a way that accounts for a whole-hearted investment. I told my wife that it would have to be either Army officer candidacy or political candidacy. She commended me to the Army without reservation. And honestly, I believe that as an Army officer, I will be able to serve family, God and country in such a way that takes advantage of every facility I have to offer.