Veterans United for Freedom

Racism and Leadership Perspective from a Combat-Wounded Infantryman

by: John W. Marshall
Captain- Duluth Honor Guard

As I sit and reflect on the recent events that have unfolded, I felt compelled to write a letter to my fellow Americans. I would ask that everyone who reads this letter, read it in its entirety before passing judgment on me. I will share some very personal insights that I have experienced in my life. I will also share a combat situation where an Iraqi enemy combatant was more humane to me after being wounded in Iraq, than the radical anarchists/socialist here over the last two weeks who wish to destroy our country from within. I have faced death more times than any man should in a short fifty years stemming back to child abuse, assaults, homelessness, drug addiction,overdoses, car accidents, war, cancer and a plethora of medical maladies. I think I’ve earned the right to be heard, and, I do so with great humility and pain for our nation.

Before I begin discussing racism, we must first define it. Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. So, what does that mean? It means all races, white, black, African, Asian, Native American, Japanese, Indian, Iraqi, Somali, Russian, Chinese…believe that their race is superior in some sense. This may include theological beliefs, ideological beliefs, color of their skin, intelligence, customs, language…If every human being were to be honest, we would find that we are allracist, prejudiced and bigoted to some degree, even if it is unintentional. Persons of the Christian faith look at the human condition with a sin variable and fight to counter all ungodly words, thoughts or actions. I won’t discuss other faiths as that would be a whole other discussion in and of itself. For those who believe in evolution, well then, we are animals and animals behave like “animals!”

I’d like to give you a few examples of perpetuated hate, bigotry, prejudice or racism in the name of a race. During WWII the Japanese thought that they were superior in intelligence, ethics and a slew of other reasons which is why they fought with such ruthless veracity, they felt everyone that wasn’t Japanese, was subservient and servile.Read the “Raping of Nan King.” That will put Japanese racism or hatred in perspective.  Another example would be the United States versus the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. We nearly annihilated each other on several occasions with nuclear weapons post WWII. And – they were an ally. However – their extreme political differences, among many other things, created such abhorrence and detestation towards us and us towards them. Ironically – when I was at Ft. Benning, “Home of the Infantry”, our mottos were, “Kill, kill the commy (communist)!” Or – blood, blood, makes the grass grow!” That’s racism as defined above.When I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, I experienced extreme racism by those Muslim nations. In Vietnam, the American soldier experienced extreme racism. I’ve been to certain areas of Chicago and Baltimore where I was the minority and experienced prejudice and bigotry. I could give you thousands of examples of racism in the world.  We are all guilty of or have experienced racism no matter what our color, race or creed.

When we, as people, refuse to deal with disagreements on the basis of principal and truth, we resort to verbal or physical violence or both. I’m speaking of objective truth – not relative. This violence isoften masqueraded as patriotism or religious zeal. When this understanding fails, people begin to destroy each other in the name of their country or religion. Look at the world situation, we are killing each other for these very reasons, and now, we are killing each other in the streets of America.

As a Christian, I believe we were created and have fallen to sin. We are to live in love and faith and God’s grace will do the rest. Sadly – there are many “Christian” churches that have cheapened Christ’s grace and is thus, another topic. This is a very important point when I begin to discuss my viewpoint of George Floyd and the repercussions of that event. In my opinion, it’s also important to talk about how all levels of government leadership has failed us. They do not get a mulligan on this.

The Old Testament is often very harsh with the history of Gods story of humanity. It is also full of wisdom, love and guidance for humanity. In the Old Testament there were 613 laws, Ten Commandments and other directives given to the Jews, and all humanity, to follow for that period of human history. These laws covered all areas of one’s life concerning hygiene, love, economics, family, love, compassion… Gentiles weren’t excluded, the Jews were not teaching the Gentiles as they were intended to. This is one of the reasons Jesus Christ had to come and fulfill the law because man failed miserably. He also came to atone for sin and bring all people together in love. Regardless of the color of your skin, your race, your creed… Love is the key. In the New Testament, there is NO separation of Jew or Gentile. Remember –all of the apostles – “divinely appointed representatives” – were Jewish and witnessed Christ’s death and resurrection.Again – Christ’s main theme was to love one another – period! He would do the rest.

Now, for me, if I live a Christlike life and there’s no heaven, well, I’ve lived a good life always trying to mimic Christ’sexampleon how to live our lives. If I’m a Christian and there is a heaven and hell, and I believe there is, then not only will I have lived the best possible loving life on earth but I will get eternal life with Christ also. This is not Pascal’s Wager for me and is one of my selling points in my faith. What does one have to lose by living a Christlike life? Absolutely nothing! We have everything to gain and nothing to lose in regards to eternity. Our time here on earth is exponentially and infinitely smaller than a nanosecond in time.

We can all agree that the death of George Floyd is a “human” tragedy as is the death of any human being. Yes – any loss of life is a tragedy! Until we begin to look at each other as “human beings” or brothers and sisters in this world of ours, we will never unite as a local community, nation or world community. When we keep bringing up the same false narrative of blacks being the only race to experience racism, prejudice…we are going to continue to have the same old problems. We keep tearing the scab off this old wound. This continued ignorance is responsible for and has caused the “innocent” deaths of police officers and American citizens who just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time over the last two weeks. These issues have only created a further rift to this nation, and personally, I do not think man alone can correct the collision course we are on in America.

I will tell you that I do not subscribe to any false ideology that is created to cultivate victimhood. I do not believe that there is systemic racism against black people. Is there racism, yes, it will always exist in the human condition. We confront it when we see it, and, one of two things will happen. The person, persons, agencies… will change or they won’t. I just listened to Morgan Freeman discuss his viewpoints about not bringing color into a conversation with a reporter who was Jewish. He stated that “Black” history month was an American history; he did not separate the two into black and American – it is American history. It is a dark stain on American history but we changed the horrible “westernized” slavery where hundreds of thousands of Americans died to make this wrong – right. I would highly recommend people educate themselves on slavery throughout the world. You will see that our American history is almost a love story in comparison to what others around the world did in regards to slavery. You will see that black people were not the only ones enslaved. For example, during Muslim conquests over 1400 years much of Christendom was occupied and enslaved.  Millions of whites and non-Muslims throughout Europe, Middle East…were enslaved and they were animalistic to so many. Read “Sword and Scimitar.”

We all have choices that we make in life, no matter what our circumstances are.There are NO excuses, it falls on us as to how we react to those circumstances, the choice is always ours! We are all told not to bring up past hurts in relationships because they fuel anger, mistrust… We learn from those experiences, forgive and move on. The more you keep bringing up color, the more it becomes an issue. I can say that when George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police officer, we were all horrified.We must keep in mind that Mr. Floydwas a sinner, as we all are. Or – we are animals. I believe he was one of God’s creations and did not deserve to die in the manner he did. It was horrible. However – Mr. George made some bad decisions that contributed to his dying that “observed” Memorial Day. Those decisions did not warrant death but it brings up the issue of personal responsibility in our lives. It’s funny how “personal responsibility” angers so many but its truth. 

I’d like to share a personal experience of my war to show that humanity can be displayed even in the most violent of situations.On February 27, 1991, two Bradley Fighting Vehicles were separated from a larger task force. We came upon an enemy bunker complex and began consolidating enemy combatants. When we gave a situation report to the commander, we were then given specific instruction on what to do with them. Shortly after that, I was heading to the back of our Bradley to update one of my soldiers who had a serious gash on his head.I never made it! The first round hit our Bradley killing my driver instantly, I was only ten feet away when that 120mm DU round hit. I didn’t know at the time it was fratricide. I was knocked down and concussed. I couldn’t’ hear anything, ringing in the ears like Captain Miller had at the end of“Saving Private Ryan” is the best I could describe it. Once I regained composure, I low crawled over to a bunker full of Iraqi’s where my boss and another one of my soldiers was laying down suppressive fire on a truck. These Iraqi combatantsin the bunker were not Republican Guard, they were lesser military and civilians. They were defecating themselves, urinating themselves, crying… they didn’t want to be there in that moment. Moments earlier, I had tried to kill them but my weapon had jammed. I pulled sports and the weapon was still jammed. I saw that they were not a threat and began to shoot 40mm rounds at the truck. Keep in mind two Bradley’s are burning, we are taking friendly tank and Bradley fire, explosions everywhere…Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I had an Iraqi running towards the bunker, no weapon and fear in his eyes, I turned and my weapon fired. Seconds later, I was hit in the back. My boss came over and checked and thought, “oh shit” this isn’t good. I moved my feet, my legs and then my ass, I knew I wasn’t paralyzed. Keep in mind we were taking friendly and enemy fire, had exploding vehicles and other explosions around us. And then, an Iraqi soldier came out of the bunker with his Koran. He was crying and offered me water. I didn’t know if it was tainted so I didn’t drink. He offered me a smoke and I took that; we had a one-way conversation with me asking him why we were here…?  My point – this enemy soldier had enough compassion for me in the absolute worst situation anyone could be in by offering me water and that smoke. He showed more mercy and humanity to me, in that moment, than our own Americans have shown to each other since the death of George Floyd and these riots began. I also had an “aha” moment on that bunker where I struggled to dehumanize this enemy or any enemy. You can justify killing a raping, pillaging bast—ds that hurt other innocent human beings but how can I justify killing men, or, in this case man, who felt empathy and compassion for a U.S. soldier who was hurt? You cannot! 

I’m of the mindset that you are either a leader or you are not. There are those who can be trained to be a leader but the most effective have these natural qualities. There are many attributes to being a leader such as ability to influence others, transparency, decisiveness, ethics, integrity, passion, empathetic, purpose driven, resiliency, charisma… All leaders must take responsibility for their successes and their failures. We always make sure that we have plausible deniability, through training, counseling, contingencies…but we are always responsible for any outcome, positive or negative. One of my favorite quotes in regards to leadership is, “Being a leader is not about being the best, but making others better!” That can be done individually or as a community. When our communities, state and nation become further and further divided, that falls on its overall leadership.

Our city and state leaders failed miserably by condoning the actions of violence, looting, murder…The evidence was in their statements and that they did not call out the Army National Guard until many days later, long after the violence,theft and murders began. They were not there to stop the peaceful protests; they were there to protect life and property. I’m tired of hearing people complaining about property protection. You can’t pick and choose in the bible, it’s an all or nothing. The seventh commandment says to not steal. Period! We should work and give back to others that are less fortunate. That’s the godly intent with peoples gains or property. Many of us donate to various causes that help others. We are not to enable our brothers and sisters but assist them so they can become self-sufficient. Another societal enigma today in America! It’s not a difficult concept people.

Let’s talk about the hatred that was spewed by our state and local leaders. You cannot allow breaking of the laws to be considered “justifiable!” That just fans the flames of an already volatile situation. I’m of the mindset, you need to enforce law and order immediately, especially, when people are being physically hurt or murdered. The wounds that were sustained by these violent protesters have further divided our communities, state and country with even more angerand division. As Christ says, anger is the first step in murder, because anger gives the devil a foothold in our lives, and the devil will, “steal, kill, and destroy.” If you don’t want a Christian perspective, how about Horace’s statement, “Anger is momentary insanity!” People do very bad things when in moments of insanity. In fact, it’seven a legal argument for murder which is NEVER alright.

Leadership is a very interesting topic itself, and would require more thoughts and writing so I will begin to tie this up with a quote from George Orwell, he stated, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” This could not be any truer. He’s referring to military whose leaders keep us safe from threats outside our country. But what about law enforcement, firefighters…who keep us safe on the home front? Right now – the leadership on the Minneapolis City Council are acting irresponsibly – through emotion – by trying to disband the very people who are called on to keep us safe. That is poor leadership, or, in my opinion, NO leadership.

Wake up friends, we are only one generation or less from losing our American Liberties! Hold those accountable, accountable! Bring God back into our lives, or at a minimum, don’t infringe on us that believe. Believe me – prayers are needed for our country now more than ever.