The Word — Three Marines

Published 6:43 am Sunday, September 25, 2022

On August 6, 1942, U.S. Marines landed in the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia. Although, over the course of the next six months, the Allied forces were successful in driving out the Japanese and establishing large bases for troops there, thousands lost their lives in the process, and thousands more were injured.

Among the wounded were three Marines with similar leg injuries. All of them developed gangrene, the dreaded death of tissue due to infection or lack of blood supply. The field doctor presented them with the most effective solution: amputation. The first soldier, already in so much pain that he couldn’t bring himself to face more, was adamant against this option. Understandably, he also refused the other treatments the doctor offered, such as the release of maggots into the wound so that they could eat away the dead tissue. The second Marine was willing to try alternate cures, but he refused the most obvious, and most painful, solution. The third Marine, clutching a picture of his wife and children, gladly submitted to the pain of amputation. “Doc, do whatever you need to do to get me home,” he said. “There are more important things in life than my leg.”

This story made me reflect on a striking truth about our Father in heaven. He is like the field doctor, who simply wanted what was best for his suffering charges, but who could only help the one who cooperated with him.

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The first soldier was unwilling to comply to treatment because he didn’t want to undergo any more pain than he could possibly help (understandably); the second was willing to take any treatment except the one that was most effective. Although these two wanted to get well, they simply didn’t have the same motivation as their comrade. He, on the other hand, knew his goal and clung to it, regardless of what it cost him. His love for his family was so great that he was willing to do whatever it took, no matter how painful, to see them again. This love was his motivation.

Like the field doctor, God isn’t trying to take away what we hold most dear. Rather, He is trying to get us to our goal. Sometimes that entails suffering, and our instinct is to run. But just as the soldier was willing to undergo any pain in order to reach his goal of seeing his family, we need a great love to motivate us to cooperate with God. That love is the reason that we are willing to let God “operate” on us.

However, this love is not of our own making. It is a love that He pours forth from His own infinite store.  If we ask Him, He will place this love in our hearts. Then we will have the strength to say, “Thy will be done,” without exceptions.

Br. Maximilian Watner is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at