taking the words of Jesus seriously

As a soldier I do not have the luxury to disconnect myself from the impact of America’s weapons on people. The death that happens to those at the other end of America’s bullets and bombs are lives that are priceless to God and irreplaceable to our human family of 8 billion. The 1200 Israeli lives and 250 hostages taken on October 6th are priceless to God and irreplaceable. 

I am no stranger to what Lockheed Martin’s hellfire missiles do to human beings. The ones on the receiving end of the explosive or the human being ordered to pull the trigger. Both souls lose what they need to stay alive.

It was so hot inside of the cargo plane my lungs struggled to pull oxygen into my chest. I was a medic in the Iraq war flying a patient to Baghdad. “Why did the lights turn off?” I whispered to the soldier camped out on the floor next to me in the bottom of the cargo hold. “Oh, ” he said, his eyes not looking up from his clenched hands in his lap, “ we go dark when a heat seeking missile locks onto us.  We try to lose them by flying so close to the desert floor that it loses our heat signal with the heat of the desert. That’s why it feels like we are roasting in here.”

The lights stayed off, 500 people went deathly quiet. No one barely breathed into the darkness. Slowly my eyes traveled to the patient next to me, the cargo bay full of hundreds of dusty Marines trying to get to Baghdad to catch a flight home. My heartbeat kept time like a second hand, thump, thump. Too loud in my ears. deafening. Either the next seconds would bring the lights back on and relief because we broke the missile’s lock on us or we’d be a successful “kill” for the soldier who fired the missile at us. A fiery ball of metal falling out of the sky. The sound of 500 souls barely breathing and the thump of my heartbeat could be the last thing I hear.

I know the carnage that hellfire missiles leave in its wake. I’m grateful that I’m not one of them. We evaded the missile locked on us that day. But the World Central Kitchen aid workers killed by Israel’s hellfire mission on April 2nd did not.  

Lockheed Martin is one of the largest arms dealers in the world. Sixty-nine percent of the weapons, including all of the fighter jets dropping bombs, being sent to Israel, are manufactured by U.S. weapons companies, of which Lockheed Martin is the largest. Since the 1970s, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 has been the Israeli Air Force’s “most important fighter jet,” taking part in all of Israel’s major military assaults on Gaza. The newer Lockheed Martin F-35 is the most advanced warplane used by the Israeli Air Force. Over the past almost six months, Lockheed Martin’s fighter jets have been the instruments of death dropping bomb after bomb on Palestinian children, women, and men, aid workers, journalists, nurses, and doctors.

What I know as a soldier is that the deaths in Gaza are as much a U.S. crime as it is an Israeli crime. To be sure, American soldiers are not pulling the trigger. But we are supplying the bombs for them to detonate. It is ours, as Americans, to shoulder this responsibility instead of shirk it. It’s our duty to take responsibility for what our country does in our name, under the banner of our flag and with our taxes and weapons. 

Aaron Bushnell was an active-duty airman who took his own life, with his last words being “I no longer can be complicit in this genocide.” The burden of carrying his share and America’s share of being complicit in the genocide in Gaza crushed him. It was too much for him to carry alone. I wish Aaron was still alive. I wish he could have counted on Americans to do their duty. To share in shouldering our country’s responsibility for the genocide in Gaza.

I marched from the Liberty Bell to the gates of Lockheed Martin to pray with my feet during Holy Week. I found myself on Good Friday standing in front of Lockheed Martin’s gates asking them to stop supplying weapons to a genocide. To read the names of the 13,000 babies killed by the Israeli army. A young Pastor laid down and cradled the names of these babies to his chest, tears sliding down his cheeks soaking into the soil of Lockheed Martin. His three children watched him. Mothers, fathers and kids honored these babies by laying red roses on their names. We bore witness and grieved as Americans, Muslims, Christians, Palestinians and Jews.  

As we raised our voices, a celebrated Black Pastor who knew the price children, mothers and families paid to end segregation led us in singing “We Shall Not Be Moved”. My mind brought me back to standing in the 16th Street Baptist Church. In 1963, four little girls in Sunday school there were killed by a bomb.  

Our country is no stranger to killing, bombs, or massacring children. What we’ve always been in short supply of is ordinary people willing to act when violence kills or harms their neighbor next door or across the ocean. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”  I don’t believe that. I think doing nothing steals our human goodness out from underneath of us. Wrestles it out of our hands, leaving us morally bankrupt and empty as an echo. We need quiet citizens who allow their conscience and commitment to Jesus and Justice to require them to put love on display in public. 

In Iraq, my soldier’s uniform required me to do things that my soul knew violated my soul. When I dug my combat boots into the sand and found the courage to say no by taking the bullets out of my gun, I found myself the proud owner of something I never had before…..freedom. We are always in bondage to what we will kill for. To what we allow. No one is free until we find our freedom not to kill.  

Gaza has inspired a new wave of conscientious objectors. Ben Arad, an 18-year-old Israeli, is refusing his mandated enlistment into the Israeli Army because his conscience won’t allow him to. He was sentenced to 20 days in a military prison. He is joining Tal Mitnick and Sofia Orr who are Israelis serving prison sentences for their conscientious objection. I can’t imagine the courage they have. The hate that must be aimed at them by family, neighbors and their country for the crime of refusing to join the war. His statement says, “I am Ben Arad, I’m 18 years old. I oppose senseless killing, intentional starvation and sickness and the sacrifices of soldiers, civilians and hostages.” U.S. Airman Larry Hebert took leave from his duty station in Spain to go to Washington D.C. to turn in his conscientious objector status. On Easter he began a fast in front of the White House to protest the war in Gaza. The sign around his neck says, “Active Duty Airman Refuses to Eat while Gaza Starves.”

When I was asked if it was my intention to obey Lockheed Martin’s demand to leave by the police officer, my conscience couldn’t obey. My feet wouldn’t move. I knew that standing in front of the bomb maker wasn’t wrong. The wrong is sending bombs to kill children in Gaza.

We started to Pray. They started to arrest.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.  

Your Kingdom Come, your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”

Arms twisted behind my back,

Give us this day our daily bread,

Hand on my arm walking me to the person who will handcuff me.

and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Tightening my arms, stretched behind my back. Locked tight. Immobilized.

And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

Do you understand you are being charged with disorderly conduct? He said as he shifted me away from the camera’s view.

“Is standing still and praying quietly disorderly?” I ask as my eyes lock onto his brown eyes.

“I don’t know,” he mumbles, looking sheepish over the white paper he is writing my name on, “I wasn’t even there.” 

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.

As many fellow Christians bless the bombs falling on Gaza, bombs made at Lockheed Martin… we say NO, not in our name, and not in the name of our Savior. As many Christians try to defend the violence of Israel being done in planes made by Lockheed Martin, we are calling for a ceasefire and an end to the violence in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

When our children ask us what we did to stop the genocide in Gaza, we will tell them these stories. We stood up to the bombmaker and asked them to lock their gate. Listen to their conscience and refuse to allow a single hellfire missile to pass through their gate anymore. It will feel like not enough and too little. But they will know that they can count on their elders, pastors and neighbors to stand up to Evil and hold tight to their Goodness. They can count on us to show them how We Shall Not Be Moved.

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About The Author


Diana Oestreich is an Author, Veteran Activist and Peacemaker living along the shores of Lake Superior. Her book Waging Peace: One Soldier’s Story of Putting Love First was Amazon's #1 new release in war and peace. As founder of the Waging Peace project, she speaks across the country to inspire & activate everyday people to change our world by waging peace like our neighbors’ lives depend on it. She serves Red Letter Christians as the Development Coordinator and is dreaming up more ways to transform christian nationalism and end war because God’s justice and joy cannot wait!

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