My time in service as an Army Officer is best characterized by three simple words. They are faith, hope, and love.
Here when I use
faith, I am not only referring to religious faith; though, that is one of the
most important uses of the word. My faith in God is the starting point for
everything I do, and also the end. All things begin and end in Him. However, when
I use faith to characterize my service to the nation, I am referring to the
foundation of trust that lies at the heart of the American military tradition.
When I took the
oath of office as an Army Officer, I swore to support and defend the
Constitution of the United States, to bear true
faith and allegiance to the same. When I accepted promotion to Major, I
heard it read that the President of the United States, the duly elected
representative of the people, reposed special trust and confidence in my
patriotism, valor, and fidelity. I
heard this also when I was promoted to Captain, the rank before Major, and
Lieutenant, the rank that preceded Captain. I hear this every time someone is
promoted to their next rank. Faith and trust forms the foundation of the Army
ethic and it defines the nature of our service to the people. I have faith in
the American people and they have faith in me.
When I say my time
in service as an Army Officer is characterized by hope, I do not only mean the
theological virtue of hope; though, that is one of the most important and real
uses of the word. The Blessed hope in Christ Jesus is the very start and end of
every thought we should have and deed we should do. In him, we live and move
and have our being, Saint Paul writes. Elsewhere the Apostle adds we should
take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. Yet when we hear “hope”, we think “luck.” Not long ago, the
mega million jackpot reached into the billion dollar range and there were a lot
of people who bought lottery tickets hoping
to win. But this is not the same hope I mean when I say my time in service is
characterized by hope. Certainly it is not what the Church means by hope. The
Church’s blessed hope is real. It is not luck.
We know the
blessed hope is real because the saving work of Christ Jesus is already
accomplished in one of God’s creatures – his Blessed Mother, our sweet Mary.
Bodily assumed into heaven, she gives us good reason to hope. In the same way,
to a lesser extent, but still important, every day I hope to be a good man. I
hope to be a good father. I hope to be a good husband to my wife. I hope to be
a good servant to the American People. I hope for these realities not because I
think I may get lucky and will win them like a lottery jackpot. Rather, it is
because I know that with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can be a good man, a
good father, a good husband, and a good soldier. There are already many
examples of very good men and women, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives,
and soldiers already accomplished, especially among the saints. So I place my
hope in something real and achievable. With their help and intercession, I hope
our destiny is to be together in heaven.
Finally, when I
say my time in service as an Army Officer can be characterized by love, I am
not only referring to agape love, the God-like love, the theological virtue of
love. True, this is perhaps the strongest possible use of the word love, mainly
because Jesus himself commanded that we must love God with all our heart, mind,
soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When I use love
here, what I mean is leadership. Army service is known for exemplary leadership,
and leadership, to me at least, is best known for its sacrifices. Therefore,
and I mean to be taken quite seriously when I say this, leadership is love. Of course this sounds strange
to us because we use love in so many different ways. For instance, I love
jumping into a pile of freshly raked autumn leaves. I love sunrises and I love
sleeping in – though I cannot decide which of these two I love more since I
can’t enjoy both at the same time. I love ice cream. I love making my kids
laugh. I love my wife. The danger in using love so loosely is we end up diluting
love to be nothing more than a really nice feeling. However, love is more than
just a really nice feeling. Love is a commandment.
Leadership is love
because love is a sacrifice. We need not look any further for evidence of this
than the sacrifice of our beloved Lord dying on the cross out of love, to lead
us back into himself. No greater act of love, he tells us, than for one to lay
down their life for his friends. If my time-honored profession has taught me
any good lesson worth sharing, it is in recognizing the depth of love reached
by the men and women of my service who have offered the fullest measure of
devotion to love by sacrificing their life for their fellow brothers and
sisters in arms. Their example leads others to follow.
I have learned
that if you want to be a good leader, first, you must love. My best advice to
grow in your capacity to love is to put yourself at risk, to sacrifice. Advance
others ahead of yourself. Defend the weak, especially the most vulnerable, such
as the unborn. Be their voice. Do your job quietly, but with confidence and
great joy. Be the face of Christ. Recommend others for honors before yourself.
Be humble. Avoid wrongdoing in public and private life. And when you do wrong,
as certain as you are human, go to confession and seek forgiveness from those
who you have injured.
When I say my time in service as an Army Officer is best characterized by three simple words – faith, hope, and love – I really do mean an experience quite real, as real as the God who is. Pray for me, as I will for you, that we both may grow together in these three great virtues. For an increase in faith. For an increase in hope. For an increase in the greatest of these, love.
Matthew D. Pride is an U.S. Army active duty officer assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth Kansas, where he earned a Masters of Military Arts and Science in Strategic Studies. His thesis work was on Just War Theory. In 2012, he earned a Masters of Science from the University of Missouri Science & Technology in Engineering Management. In 2006, Matt graduated from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. He is married to his wife of 12 years, Christina, and together they have four children.
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