The day I quit
The year 1977 was personally historic to me, for this was the first time of my exposure to life’s unfairness in a big way; just like waking up from a dream - suddenly entered a world of complexities I never saw prior to this.
Here’s my story: In 1977, I was a young recruit in the marines at the age of 18 with absolutely no idea what I am about to encounter. I was the first military-man in our family. Of course that is not necessarily true because my father’s twin was a WW II guerrilla who died in the famous Japanese death march in the Philippines, so I never met him - hence I have no idea what it’s like to be in the uniformed unit. That was why I claimed to be the first service-man in the family. There I was – with thoughts that this was a job onboard a seafaring vessel, but what a disappointment that was. It was November 1st, when everyone was geared for all soul’s day – we took oath and pledged allegiance to the government we barely knew, much less care about at that time. Then we were ushered in to our “reception” as new recruits. What that was – basically, what some termed as “baptism of fire” for our transition from civilian life into a ‘supposedly’ better disciplined life – the military! I am not sure how many of us cried that day and intended to quit, but we found out that quitting is not an option. The contract we signed seemed like a contract for life – utterly unchangeable. That it how we understood or “were made us” think at the moment. Most of us guys were from far flung provinces and definitely newcomers in the field. I think most of us are poor young boys whose parents can not afford to send to school – so it was as if the military offered us a new leash in life. Basically what we were can be summed up in three words; young, ignorant and stupid. But I was too late – the military capitalized on this characteristic, exploited and abused us to the extreme – in the name of ‘breaking us’ for service to the country. We were made to think as if we have no rights at all; we were called “bugs”, “maggots” and whatever despicable creature the DI’s (drill instructors) can imagine. We were trained to blindly obey without question – authorities (at that point – our seniors). We were hazed, whacked, kicked, cursed or whatever – upon the whim of the DI’s. Complaints were never entertained. Food was terrible, living conditions were barbaric, school and drill hours were extremely long. Sleep was controlled. “Tops” as it was called – was the final briefing (normally at 10:00 p.m.) before going to bed – and that may extend till 12:00 mid-night depending on the mood of the DI. “Reveille” (wake up time) was exactly 4:00 a.m. where we do the navy-dozen exercises and jog for about 10 miles. After that, we bathe – the whole class in exactly 3 minutes, in a very limited facility and water so most of us really stink. Next we spend the succeeding hours in the field doing drills, combat manoeuvres, etc. under the blazing sun. Or spend the whole day sitting erect in class, until we get to evening activities. Slightest mistake could mean “disciplinary punishment” for the whole class – we were conditioned to work with “one for all – all for one” attitude. Camaraderie or the spirit thereof was enforced, and we learned to live as if this was our only life-line in combat. In the outset – we were trained to be ‘killing machines’ but unknowingly – we were depraved of the very tenets of the constitution we were bound to uphold. We were told to conduct in the highest degree of honour in serving our country (while those in higher authority were mostly men and women who do not necessarily honour the by-laws of the land). Corruption was rampant even in the ranks during those times. So while we were trained to be honourable men of service, the leaders to whom we serve were not all honourable. The rank-and-file were being used and abused. Seniors demanding utmost respect were themselves disrespectful, though they thought otherwise.
Because it was the system – there is no way to beat it. There were only two options; to flow with and make a career or to quit. It was a miserable life. Unfortunately – not all can see that, for becoming part of the system can be synthesizing due to the perceived power involved. When power and pride intertwine, it becomes a deadly mix. Leadership was based on fear, coercion and intimidation, not on motivation and exemplary governance. This was the Philippine military I became acquainted with. Sad but true. There were glorious moments of course, but it’s too few – and you either survive to live a mediocre life or be awarded posthumously. There is no real sense of family. The state owns you as it is – a G.I. (government issue) at will. I survived the system for about 6 years but not totally disillusioned. The worst part was – unwittingly – the force was used by politicians for their own selfish ends. Wars are waged, lives and funds spent – in the name of national defense, but core of the matter was – mostly are just political whims by those in power to wield their political dynasty, and therefore – self-serving, at the expense of the taxpayers. Virtually – the institution almost becomes the oppressor instead of the defender of the masses. Of course my view was from the lowest echelon – those on the top of the chain will only dismiss this as a bad discourse.
The impression was deeply entrenched in me that it took more than 10 years to “de-militarize” my attitude to completely blend with civilian ways. I thank God that I quit the military service, later on I find myself enlisting into a more powerful army. Many years passed and I still bore the scars of my first enlistment, never knowing that it was a prelude to a greater responsibility to which I became grossly involved. What have I learned so far?
Perseverance – yes it pays to wait and sometimes suffer a little bit because we can not force our way on every issue. Discipline – in theory is easy but a consistent struggle in practice, still it’s nice to know why. Hard work – there may be a “free lunch” occasionally but one needs to carve his path so to speak in order to prove his worth. Respect for authority – an ongoing struggle specially because those in authority often do not deserve it, nevertheless this virtue should be upheld. Remember, in this world – those who have gold make the rules. Fear – this is a positive feeling if taken in a constructive light. Personal value – nobody is indispensable, and we need each other. Reason – the need to find meaning in every action or to understand the underlying ground why others do things differently – and accept them. Fair play - this is more in theory than in practice. None-the-less it was one thing that could set you above the common person.
Many times have I said “I quit” only to find myself struggling past the very reason why I’m giving up. Then I learned that quitting was never a solution to every situation. It was not even a good option – “for winners never quit, and quitters never win” as the saying goes. But I quit the military, then I enlisted in the Mighty Army of God to win. The order of the day is based on a better protocol, termed as the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, gentleness, meekness, self control and brotherly kindness). Against such things there is no law.
In the military – we enforce the law; in God’s army we obey the law. In the military – there are temporal remunerations, in God’s army the benefits are eternal. In the military – we are trained to eliminate the enemy, in God’s army we are taught to love our enemies; to walk beyond what is required; to give and not take; to turn the other cheek and not fire back. In the military – we fight to defend the country, in God’s army – He fights and defends us. In the military – only the physically and mentally fit are accepted, there are age limits, and biased to the weak; in God’s army – there are no age limits nor mental and physical requirements; only a teachable heart is enough to get enlisted and there is no partiality. In the military – the scope of responsibility is geographical; in God’s army the scope is global and extends beyond geographical divide. In the military – we learned by forced submission; in God’s army we submit in order to learn the ways of the kingdom. In the military – it is geared into physical conditioning, while in God’s army – physical, mental and spiritual exercise is essential. Sometimes we also sleep late (tops) and wake up early (reveille) to study, meditate and receive orders for the day. In the military – enlistment is contractual; in God’s army – enlistment is consensual, it has to come from a contrite heart. There is no turning back.
You see I have enlisted into a much tougher organization than the military. The demands are astronomical but the benefits are also colossal. Life insurance is eternal and may even extend up to the 4th generation of your family line. There are battles going on, on each of us that are commonly happening in our hearts (or minds) and many are living defeated lives due to rampant deception. There are good things you knew you should be doing but not able to, instead you do the things you detest to do – does this describe you? Or things you desire that robs you of your peace of mind? Or situation that doesn’t work no matter how hard you press on to the mark? Or relationships you wish would just go away? Or no matter how high you have climbed in the corporate ladder – you still lack something and are unhappy? So why am I saying these things my friend? Because I’d want you to relax because there is good news! Even though there are battles (struggles) on your personal life, these are just pockets of resistance here and there, but the war has been won! So even though we struggle – we are on the winning side! That is – if you enlist in the Lord’s army! This unit will never see defeat. We do not fight to win; the Lord has fought for us and we have won – that is why we fight for the benefits that the worldly system (or the devil) is robbing us. I said the war has been won and is over – that is the big picture. The battles we fought are often personal and are very limited, so don’t lose heart because the real enemy (devil) is a defeated foe. Our fight is spiritual though there maybe some physical effects; but again submit (to God) and resist (the devil) in order to claim you personal victory. To those who have faith in Jesus – you are destined to win; there are no losers in His Kingdom. But to have a fore-taste of what victory should be? You might as well enlist in God’s army. Try it, it’s worth it!