We were told that there would be booms. It was one of the first things that we were told about our new home. We’ll hear the booms, they said. Booms that shouldn’t frighten us or cause alarm, but are simply the noises of the military base thirty miles away.
It was just something they had said until I sat outside one morning with my book and my coffee and heard the booms. I felt the vibration each time.
The booms continued throughout the day. Cuddled in my husband’s arms that night, watching some nonsense on television, I felt the walls shake. I sat up straight.
It isn’t the first time that we’ve lived close to a military base. On the contrary, this is our fourth. We met while I was serving a church near one. We fell in love and moved to another, got married and moved again until we ended up here where the walls shake and the booms are louder than I would like.
“Did you hear that?” I begged. “What was that?”
Tilting his ear thoughtfully, almost wistfully, he listened. “Those are artillery rounds.” He said this with pride. He is, after all, an artilleryman.
It is his job to fire off rockets. And so we joke that the same fall. I was prepared to go to protest the School of Americas, he found himself at his first duty station at that very same post. I didn’t go because I was a poor seminary student, but I haven’t stopped singing then or now in the certain hope that I’m not going to study war anymore, laying down any swords or shields that might have ended up in my hands while my husband prepares for an unknown future, an unknown future where we might seek to “totally destroy North Korea.”
When the President told the United Nations that the United States was “ready, willing and able” for such destruction, he meant my husband. He was talking about my husband and his peers, some of whom are in South Korea already watching for rockets on the border.
I have no doubt that the President is right about our military. They’re ready. They’ve been training not only for this but the war efforts our nation is already engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Syria. We are already at war. We have been at war.
Readiness is the number one priority of our military. It has been since the Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley said so last year.
It’s a refrain my husband repeated again and again at our kitchen table after a long day of doing everything he could to guarantee the best training for National Guard units while we were stationed at Fort Dix. It was a refrain I heard him lament while he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth last year. For a whole year, he found himself in a classroom when he really wanted to be doing his part to ensure the readiness both of himself and his peers.
Now, thirty miles from the booms, my beloved husband is training again.
It’s more than likely that he will deploy again. It could be sooner than either of us hope.
He’ll be ready.
There’s no question of that in my mind. He will go willingly to honor the oath that he took more than ten years ago to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, but no matter how strong his conviction, those booms will call me to question if all those exercises and trainings are preparing our military for total destruction. Or are they “ready, willing and able” to fight for something else, something that will make it easier to kiss my husband one last time before he boards that plane whenever that deployment might be to go fight in another war. Something like peace.
The Rev. Elsa Cook is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has served churches in New York City, Maine, Washington and Pennsylvania. Follow along in her adventures in ministry and writing at http://cookingwithelsa.org. You can also find her on Facebook at /elsaanderscook.