LOPEZ: Could either of you have done this without faith? What has deployment taught you about faith?
NANCY: When David and I were having the “I want to join the Army” conversation when we lived in Philadelphia, he quoted Stonewall Jackson. He said something like this, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” Of course, Stonewall died while recovering from wounds received in battle. “Duty is ours, consequences are God’s,” he is also known to have said. In other words, we threw ourselves on the mercy and sovereignty of God, and put one foot in front of the other until he came home.
DAVID: It’s easy to quote Calvinist generals from the safety of your own home. It’s another thing entirely to trust God when you’re bumping down a dirt road in a Humvee or saluting at the third memorial in a month for a fallen trooper. My deployment taught me that I am utterly dependent on God for my next breath of life. But in many ways, that thought could be more terrifying than comforting. Men who were better than me in every way were falling to IEDs and ambushes. There is no formula for survival, and God’s ways are mysterious. But we’re not promised understanding, safety, or comfort.
LOPEZ: David, you write about Playboys and Maxims and things. Do men at war have the support they need to be good men, brave in all sorts of ways? Is there any way to help or change that?
DAVID: In the book I describe our armored cavalry squadron as a “rolling, violent fraternity.” In other words, we were a group of guys (guys only; this was a combat arms unit) from all walks of life bonded together by our shared mission and sacrifice. There were devout Christians in the group and guys who couldn’t wait to head to the closest strip club when they landed in America on leave. There were guys who bounced between those extremes. There’s quite a bit of spiritual support available to soldiers, but it’s up to them whether they use it. Mostly, soldiers support each other, and I don’t think that will ever change — nor should it.
LOPEZ: Nancy, why do you write as frankly as you do about Mormon-evangelical issues you happened upon while being an evangelical Romney supporter?
NANCY: The Romney campaign was a huge part of our life, because David and I had co-founded Evangelicals for Mitt with some friends back in 2005. As Gomez Addams would kiss Morticia up and down her arm when she spoke, David and I shared a love language of “politics.” It was our hobby, our passion, and a shared interest that lasted throughout his deployment. So, the 2008 presidential effort was an unavoidable part of the story. I moved from grassroots activist to an actual campaign worker briefly when I tried to earn some extra money while David was gone by helping to get Governor Romney’s name on the ballot in Tennessee. Back then, the “How can I vote for a Mormon?” conversation was at its highest. (Though now, after more than two years of Obama, people are less concerned about the LDS church than they are about the economy and their financial futures.)
LOPEZ: Did David being away during a campaign year make it harder? Constantly being reminded of world events and our role in them?
NANCY: In a democracy, everyday people obviously have a say in electing officials who make the important military decisions. But when your husband’s at war, you are less tolerant of people blown and tossed by the uninformed winds of popular opinion. This made me much less enjoyable during political conversations. I was watching in desperation as Senator Obama was drawing closer and closer to becoming president.
LOPEZ: What do you think about the fact that so few of us serve in the military?
DAVID: I’ve got mixed feelings, honestly. The all-volunteer military is pound-for-pound the most effective fighting force our nation has ever put in the field. And yet in a long war, the strains of repeat deployments on the few who serve are simply incredible.
In addition, I’m not sure that such a profound civil/military divide is healthy for our culture, particularly since service members tend to be grouped in certain communities (San Diego, Fort Hood, Norfolk, Fort Campbell, etc.) Politicians, culture-makers, and ordinary citizens increasingly divorce their citizenship from service, perhaps rendering our national outlook more selfish.