I joined the Baha’i Faith in 2010. After a childhood growing up Catholic, my stint in high school as a proclaimed atheist, to a seeker after my time in the army, finally finding and falling in love with the Baha’i Faith. As I now read the history of the faith and its writings, I think back to being a soldier.
On March 20th, 2003, I crossed over the border from Kuwait to Iraq for the first time. I was a ball of fear, excitement, and wonder all rolled up in one. I spent most of the first few days in the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle. I remember seeing a sign telling us that we were atop Babylon, which all I could see was sand and some old brick walls scattered about in the region. With the occasional view of MLRS rocket systems sending volleys and feeling sorry for those on the receiving end. Other than knowing the name Babylon, it held no significance to me on that day.
One of the subsequent significant events I remember from the invasion is doing a feint to make the enemy think we would cross a particular bridge over the Euphrates. Of course, there was quite a lot happening there, and at no time did I put too much thought into the river’s name. But I remember artillery hitting buildings, lots of gunfire, and having my first opportunity to engage the enemy. That day is very much ingrained in my mind.
I saw the Tigris river for the first time a couple of days later. I didn’t give it too much thought beyond recognizing the name from various holy writings of the many faiths. I must have crossed that river a dozen times after that. It sat in my memory banks as that place I’ve heard of in the Bible, but the history never came to mind.
I then left Iraq to return yet again, not long after. I was wounded ten miles from the Tigris as I and many others fought for their lives on the bloodiest day I had ever witnessed. Again I used lethal force against other men.
Now all these years later, I sit and read holy writings and see Babylon, Euphrates, and Tigris repeated all the time. Bah’u’llah, the figurehead of the Baha’i Faith Himself, was exiled to Bahgdad and declared his message in the Ridvan garden along the Tigris river; I was wounded around six miles from that holy and historic location. Let alone, after some investigation, I discovered I was less than two miles from His home in Bahgdad, which was destroyed in 2013; I could of, or may have even seen it, chances are pretty high for that matter. I have pictures of buildings not far from its historical location.
Now that I am a Baha’i, I cannot help but think of these facts as somewhat mystical coincidences. I did more praying in Iraq than I had in the previous decade. Was I spared in battle to later become a member of the Baha’i faith? Is there some link that I won’t ever know until I move on to the next world? It’s exciting to dwell on. The entire idea I was so close to something I believe so strongly in now but had no clue then fascinates me.
Did my fighting in Iraq in consequently have any effect on my being in the Baha’i faith today? I have to wonder.
This photo shows the building I lived in for some time in relation to Karkh which is the area Baha’u’llah’s home was located