Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“Leave no man behind” is part of the creed armed services men and women swear to one another and their country. This commitment drives ordinary men and women to extreme lengths in loyalty to their fellow soldiers. In southern Afghanistan, British Royal Marines went to extreme lengths to rescue one of their own, displaying their heroism on January 15, 2007.
After 200 marines assaulted a Taliban stronghold, they discovered that, upon leaving the area, one of their men had been left behind. Since there might still be Taliban in the area, the Marines needed to act speedily to rescue their fellow soldier. So they utilized the only helicopters available—three AH-64 gunships—to carry Marines back to the area. Since AH-64s have room inside for only a two-man crew, the other Marines harnessed themselves on the helicopters’ two stubby wings, usually used to carry rockets and missiles. The three helicopters quickly reached the scene of the battle. The four Marines dismounted from the wings of the helicopters and found their fellow soldier, who had been killed in battle. They tied his body to the wing of the third helicopter, and all three gunships returned to their base. That is taking “leave no man behind” seriously.
Many of us have seen the moving picture of five U.S. soldiers planting the American flag atop Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima. Perhaps few of us know that the soldier who took the photo was killed in battle nine days later, and his body was not recovered. In 2007, 62 years after Sergeant William H. Genaust was killed, an effort was made to retrieve his body. Sixty-two years later! Why a search after such a long time? Their effort was driven by the commitment to “leave no man behind”—not even his remains.
Such a commitment represents loyalty to the highest degree, just as intentionally leaving a man behind represents betrayal to the highest degree. Soldiers cannot justify forsaking their comrades in battle. We call that cowardice. Such a man is a “Benedict Arnold” to his comrades. Such abandonment cannot be redeemed, nor does it redeem others.