A (semi) difficult decision to leave home

July 25, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

After graduating from Chambersburg Area Senior High School in 1999, Darren Brown wasn't really sure what he wanted to do. He had a series of jobs, but "nothing really satisfying," as he puts it. He even spent eight months at the Youth With A Mission school in Denver, where he considered becoming a missionary.

But he didn't stick with it, saying that though it was a great school, it was a confusing time in his life, a time when he still had things to work out.

And so he came home and not long after, a friend from church told him she had a friend who admired him because of the depth of his Christian faith. Within weeks he'd approached her and soon they were talking about marriage. On Aug. 2, she and the lanky, 6-foot-4 Brown will celebrate their first anniversary.

But although one part of his life was settled, the question of what he should do for a career wasn't - at least until his cousin Matt began training to go to Iraq.


"When we were young, my uncle took us all fishing and I became very close to my cousins. I thought of them as my brothers and sisters, and every Sunday we'd go to my grandparents' house and talk," he said.

He talked to a National Guard recruiter, who steered him to a regular Army intake person. He hadn't really told his wife Christy about what was on his mind, but when he did, he said she really didn't seem surprised.

"When I told her 'I thought about joining the Army today,' she said, 'OK,' " Brown said.

The next day, he said, she told him that she had figured he'd want to go into the service when his cousin was deployed. The reaction from Brown's family was mixed, he said, with some expressing pride while others worried that he might be killed or injured.

Asked if he had any doubts, Brown said no.

"No, I don't. We knew Saddam was a threat. We knew he had terrorist training camps. When France, Germany and Russia didn't want to go in, we later found out it was because they had all these deals with Saddam. And every time a president would come in, he would test him," Brown said.

Asked if he worried about being hurt or killed, and he said no again.

"I don't worry because of my faith. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If I died, I'll be with him," he said.

"When I think of the things terrorists do, if that's what it takes to stop them, then so be it," he said.

In answer to my question, Brown said he's never had a serious injury or a broken limb.

"Christy pointed out to me that I might come back like the guy (Ron Kovic) in the movie 'Born on the Fourth of July' - alive but injured," he said.

"I've taken all that into account. I'm not going to let them come back to the U.S. and kill innocent people. Fighting against terrorism nationally and internationally is a noble cause," he said.

He quoted President Bush's recent statement about how freedom isn't America's gift to world, but God's gift to humanity.

"I'm not just protecting the Iraqis, I'm protecting my wife," he said.

But Brown said he also wondered how far he could go, as a Christian, in fighting for that freedom.

"The real dilemma I had is that I'm a Christian and I wondered: Are Christians supposed to go to war? After all, we're taught to turn the other cheek," he said.

For guidance, Brown said he turned to the New Testament, where he found that Jesus occasionally met soldiers during his three years of ministry.

"Not one of those times did he tell them to put down their swords," he said.

His conclusion: "War is a last resort. But sometimes it needs to be done."

If he is uncertain about anything now, it's what direction his life will take after the war in Iraq.

"I think in the future I'd like to go into the ministry. I'm still unsure. The mission school was a steppingstone in my life. The Army might be a steppingstone, or it might be a career," he said.

He just doesn't know right now. He jokes that the one thing he does know is that because he works at United Parcel Service beginning at 4:30 a.m., his day begins shortly after 3 a.m.

"When I'm in the Army and I have to get up at 5, it'll be like I'm sleeping late," he said with a laugh.

We did the interview on the benches next to the Chambersburg courthouse, on a beautiful day where the sounds of passing traffic mingled with the splash of water in the city square's big gold fountain.

When we were done, we shook hands and he walked off as if he didn't have a care in the world. Perhaps that was because he's at peace with his decision, or because he doesn't comprehend the enormity of what he will face, either in basic training or on the battlefield. I can only hope, along with all his friends and family, that when the war ends he and I will talk again and that he'll have that same smile on his face.

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