We had pulled out into the Iraqi desert for the night, scouting out a wadi far from town and hopefully also far from any night ambushes or IEDs. After we coiled the vehicles, each vehicle commander set to securing the humvees for the night as the Marines made sleep arrangements either in the vehicles, on their hoods, or dug into holes (ranger graves) around the trucks. Only a few of us had tents.
Comer, one of my vehicle commanders, directed his Marines to restow all the gear in his truck, which most of them began promptly. Wilber, his assistant gunner, had deposited half-empty Gatorade bottles and opened MRE snacks everywhere around his seat. Comer, already irritated about being wet, cold, and now about to hunker down for the night in a squalid, desolate wadi in the middle of nowhere, started yelling when he spotted the trash. As the gunner standing in the turret, he hadn’t observed it earlier.
“Wilber, clean this shit up before I kill you! Can’t you FINISH a drink before cracking another? God, you’re a slob!”
In his slow, Georgian mountain accent, Wilber mumbled something about there being no need to yell, and began apathetically picking up the trash strewn about his seat. He had never understood that silence was often the best course of action. He felt compelled to retort, in his own way.
“Corporal Comer, the Bible talks about us not using profane language,” he drawled. “We’re not supposed to use no harsh language.”
“Oh yeah? What does the Bible say about being too freakin’ lazy and irresponsible to clean up after yourself? Isn’t there something about the merits of hard work?” Comer was accustomed to these one-sided debates. Wilber always grew flustered and gave up – mostly because he couldn’t think of a retort to somebody quoting scripture right back at him.
Comer continued. “In fact, Wilber, you have said more than once that you feel Jesus called you into the Marines to evangelize us unwashed masses, but what’s your excuse? You’re the most worthless Marine I’ve ever been in charge of. Actually, I think you were sent by the DEVIL to beguile me. You’re not doing God’s work, you’re working for Satan and you’re too damn stupid to know it.”
Wilbur twitched like he’d just swallowed a mouthful of vinegar. His lips curled into a momentary sneer, and he closed his eyes. He turned his head upwards and stretching his arms towards Comer, he began to speak.
“In the name of JESUS, come OUT of this MAN!! Get behind him, Satan! Get out of his heart and liberate his spirit. Demon, you hold no power over him, or this earth, or over God. In the name of God, get out of him!” He slumped into the humvee seat and bowed his head.
Comer stood motionless, dumbstruck. “Did you just exorcize me, you asshole?”
Wilber, head still bowed, breathing hard, said nothing. Comer went to find me and apprise me of the situation.
As he recounted his apparent exorcism of a demon he was unsure he had, our platoon commander took a break from digging his ranger grave and walked over. “Sergeant Shaw, what’s going on here?”
I explained the situation: in an act of evangelical inspiration, our good friend Lance Corporal Wilbur, fighting through a thick twang, had banished the demons from Corporal Comer – demons none of us were aware he possessed. The young officer stared at me with a blank look. He turned to Comer; “are you okay, Corporal Comer?”
“I think I’m just fine, sir.”
“Okay.” He heaved his E-tool shovel and started wandering back to his ranger grave.
“Sergeant Shaw, you need to tell me these things,” he called back.
“Tell you what, sir?”
“That we have a prophet in our midst.” He resumed digging.
As I told my sister this story, she frowned and asked me an excellent question: “Do they have some sort of IQ test you have to pass to get into the Marines?”
The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw All Rights Reserved