I had hoped to write much sooner, but this deployment has been much different than I expected, or more accurately, I had no idea what was to come. I’ve gone from the startup world of Atlanta to rejoining a two-hundred and forty-year-old organization to deployment in Afghanistan all within less than a year. It’s crazy to think of where the United States Army was in its infancy and where it is now, fully equipped with technology that affects the everyday soldier’s life. The incredible technology that we now possess in the military often dwells in my mind and makes me very thankful to be living in this day and age. I cannot imagine snail mail being the only way to correspond with family and friends back home from a war zone, or better yet (but still horrifying)… calling cards! Can you imagine those being your two options?? Yes, here I have very spotty and limited internet, but I can still use messaging apps and FaceTime (on a good day) to correspond with those back home. I’m able to be in steady, almost daily communication with family and friends, and the main difficulties in continuing building upon those relationships are only timezones and an ever-changing schedule.
Since September 1st, 2018 so much has happened. I put the Army uniform back on for the first time in almost seven years after having been in the inactive reserves for the last several years. In July of 2018, only a few months earlier, I felt God calling me to this deployment, and here, many months since that day, I sit on the brink of returning home. I have found a much greater appreciation for the men and woman who have worn the red, white, and blue on deployments (which includes two of my brothers) for these last nearly three hundred years, as well as a much deeper appreciation for the life that I lived and will be returning home to shortly. Upon entering this deployment, I realized I was entering very different waters than I had ever found myself in before… a new unit where everyone was a stranger, a new military occupation specialty that I had only recently completed, and the extraordinarily new challenge of headed into a combat zone. Since experience and familiarity come with time, I realized that being a team player and holding onto a great work ethic must be my leading qualities out of the gate. I knew that the key to both of these would be consistency from start to finish of this deployment and that has been my goal. So far, I feel I’ve done very well, though I can only credit Christ for the strength to have carried me thus far and that will carry me until the end. Being able to imitate Jesus’ love for people and his servant leadership have been life-changing for me over the last several months as I’ve seen how as relevant mirroring a life like His is at this time.
There is a lot I could expand into, but I will finish by quickly touching on the three greatest blessings I’ve identified so far and been experiencing:
- Relationship with God: This may sound like a cliche, but I can say with complete truth and all my heart that I would not be in the healthy mental and physical situation that I currently find myself in without the Word of God and daily prayer time with Him. There were times I found myself with nothing left to give in mind or physical body, only to find strength through Him to accomplish my task and finish my mission.
- Encouragement from my Christian brothers (and sisters): Thankfully this includes a lot of my family whom has been intentional in communicating and encouraging me during this entire deployment. There is such peace knowing that these relationships are as relevant here as they are when we are together back home. I will return not having to worry about rebuilding relationships but only to rejoice in being back in each others physical presence. It’s a God thing.
- Relationship with Lauren: The previous two gifts are certainly not in order of blessing or expression of my gratitude! Distance certainly makes the heart grow fonder, but I’m certain Lauren would agree that we’ve made the most of our time apart as we’ve grown greatly and deeply in our communication and understanding of each other. I hate that this has been the case, but the majority of our courtship has been spent being continents apart, and from the beginning, our relationship has focused around my military obligation. Our weekly FaceTime dates have been amazing, and we’ve really made the most of them. The same intentionality apart will be the key to continued success upon our return home… and boy am I looking forward to it! The presence of Christ in each of our lives has truly been the sustainer and foundation of our relationship. Honestly, I can hardly wait to hold her in my arms again and continue our relationship in each other’s physical presence! To God be the glory!
So that’s a wrap for now, but I hope to post a couple of my book reviews on here before my return. I thank you all who’ve been praying for my brothers in arms and myself during this deployment.
Luke J. Clark
“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 ESV