11-6-2015 9-45-02 AMDid you know that we have been officially involved in fighting terror since 1801? King Solomon so wisely said, “Ain’t nuthin’ new under the sun,” (well, that may be the Casual Revised Version of the fella’s philosophy), but except for very brief seasons of respite, we as Americans, and more specifically, our troops have always been involved in fighting terror. And further, if we are going to keep from completely crumbling as a culture, and being annihilated as a nation, fighting terror is something we must be willing to fight on principal in order to be free.

When we were an infant nation, President Thomas Jefferson got himself a copy of the Koran to see what he was up against in Tripoli, and then committed ½ of our top of the line ships, (and that would mean a whopping total of three naval vessels from our flotilla) to blockade the harbor of Tripoli. Why? Because 200 years ago, there were those jihadists who felt their “God-given purpose” was to destroy freedom, and we were then, as now, in their crosshairs.

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Here is a newsflash, or for some of you, a revelation: The whole concept of freedom straight up freaks terrorists out, no matter their philosophical or religious beliefs. Terror by its very nature is successful only when it controls, and freedom and control are diametrically are opposed to each other.
Soldiers know this, and this week it has been announced that they are going back to Iraq. Now, I could spend several versions of Soldier breaking down the mistakes we made in Iraq, but in a very real way, it really doesn’t matter what kinds of mistakes we made. The truth is, terror never rests, and neither can we. And, if they are going back, we need to “go back” with them, and back them with all we have.

I don’t know how many of our Joes and Janes are going back to the Great Sandbox, and for now we are told we are fighting ISIS in Iraq on an “advise and consent” basis. However, sometimes knowing where you have been can serve to be a roadmap for where you are going, and I believe we as a nation, and our troops specifically, have been given a wonderful gift in the form of a new book. It’s called, “Thomas Jefferson And The Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History,” written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.

What happened in Tripoli, and its effect on the American story, is no longer taught in schools. However, Kilmeade and Yaeger have done us a great service by digging into the facts of the fight, the bravery shown by our Marines against the Barbary pirates, and how we can apply it to our current distress.

There were Marines, led across the African desert to the port of Derna by a man by the name of William Eaton, and they took it, hoisting the American flag for the first time on foreign soil. There was the necessary destruction of the USS Philadelphia after it had run aground in the Tripoli harbor. He then escaped under a hail of gunfire. There are many more tales of bravery and courage to feed our souls. Most importantly, we are being blessed to the story of a President who did not shrink back from bullies, and learning about what Jefferson faced is a tale we can use in these times to shore ourselves up.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

11-6-2015 9-45-27 AM

10-17-2015 9-09-56 AMOn October 14th the White House announced that 300 troops as well as some specialized drones were being deployed to Cameroon to help in the fight against Boko Haram. For those of you who have not heard of this dreadful group before, here is a brief breakdown of who they are and what they do:

• They have identified themselves as being part of Isis, and are intent upon enforcing Shariah law in Africa. Additionally, when Osama Bin Laden’s headquarters were breached, letters from the leadership of Boko Haram were found in his office.
• They fund their attacks in part by robbing banks, and also receive a great deal of money from Islamist sympathizers who by their own admission hate the West, and want to create a caliphate.
• They employ the use of suicide bombers, including women. On October 11th, two Boko Haram female suicide bombers killed 9 people in the town of Mora.
• They kidnap girls, using them as sex slaves. They are also violently opposed to the education of women.
• They target Christians and kill them.
• They target students of both genders and kill them, so that they are not corrupted by education and therefore resistant to Shariah law.
• Their death squads target resistant men in towns they try to control, and have killed thousands of men who have dared to stand up to them. They also kill whole families who resist.

The official statements regarding our official response include the following:
“These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed.”

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“The results of these ISR flights will better enable African partners to secure their borders against violent/illegal activities disrupting our common desire for stability in the region.”

“Most importantly, all information collected by US unarmed remotely piloted aircraft is used to support international counter-violent extremist organisation operations.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest continued with the following set of statements:

“This deployment will be part of an effort to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region.” And later, Earnest added, “This is obviously a unique capacity that the United States has to bring to bear to this effort and it will be used in support of the ongoing regional counter-extremist efforts that are ongoing there.” The British and the French are also involved, and while I can only guess as to their reasons for being so, I think the fact that they are under attack from jihadists, and have had people die in the Isles as well as on the Continent, they are understandably wanting to keep the fight out of their own countries.
Three hundred guys and some drones can do a great deal of good or damage, depending upon one’s perspective, and I for one am relieved that our government sees the threat as being severe enough to do something. However, either one sees Shariah as completely hostile to the Constitution, or not, and my hope is that our government will do everything it can to keep the conflict in Cameroon. I know our guys will.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-17-2015 9-10-18 AM

10-2-2015 12-52-50 PMMany times after a long day of delivering Athens Now, my crew and I will land for about 30 minutes at the Chick-fil-A on Hwy 72 in Athens. It is always a welcome break, and as an unapologetic people watcher, I love to watch families, sports teams, kids on dates, and for that matter, just the community at large be treated well by the staff before they sit down to their meal. Over the 4+ years that we have done this, often times there are patrolmen from the Athens Police force who come in for their lunch break and sometimes they meet their families. They always enter the facility with their service weapons in plain sight, something that I for one find comforting, and I imagine that most of us do.

However, apparently the corporate powers-that-be of the Waffle House chain do not. They have no qualms in instructing their restaurant owners to, for example, ask a KY National Guardsman, (who had his sidearm strapped in plain sight on his person) to leave the facility due to the fact that he came into the restaurant armed. Now, while I understand that technically the function of a particular state’s National Guard is different from that of the local police, from whence cometh this “restaurant-al ridiculousness?” I could see this kind of thinking coming out of the Peoples’ Republics of California or Colorado, but for crying out loud, Waffle House has its headquarters in Georgia!! What makes it worse is that the incident in question, which I’ll describe in a moment, happened in Kentucky!

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The National Guard is the oldest branch of the military in America, having been established in 1636. Its members have a dual function as citizen-soldiers: they answer to the governor of their individual states as well as to the Commander In Chief of the United States. According to the NG website, “the National Guard provides protection of life and property, and preserves peace, order and public safety.”

Wow, that sounds strangely like a police officer, does it not? Would you feel more comfortable if an on or off duty police officer was told to put their weapon in the glove box during lunch, and some flaming nutcake mows down the occupants of a McDonald’s, simply because it’s a population dense environment that statistically is not prepared to defend itself? I think not.
Yet, while Waffle House claims that it has no problem allowing an armed police officer into one of its stores, for some reason the same courtesy and common sense cannot be extended to a citizen-soldier who also puts his or her life on the line in order to keep us safe. Here’s what went down.

Billy Welch, a member of the Kentucky National Guard, stopped by the Nicholsville, KY Waffle House to have breakfast. He was in uniform, armed, gave the waitress his order, and then was informed by the manager that he would have to take his service weapon outside. He replied by saying, “Thank you, but no thank you. I’m gonna have to leave.”
“You know, if I can’t have my firearm, then I can’t be here,” Welch said later in an interview. “I don’t feel comfortable taking my firearm away from me. I always keep it with me.” While he wasn’t going to make an issue of it, thankfully “La Force du Facebook” saw to it that the incident went viral, and Billy is being defended by other “citizen-soldiers,” the ones who are proving that at times the cyber-pen is mightier than the sword. I hope the good ol’ boys in Georgia buy a clue, buy the boy his breakfast, and let him eat in peace with his piece.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

10-2-2015 12-53-11 PM

9-18-2015 2-45-07 PMEditor’s Note: From time to time I am happy to give this space to someone I feel “nails it.” Many thanks to Kris Grogan for his service in the USAF and thoughtful words. The words below are an exact replication of Kris’ words, and we have not made any editing changes.

Tomorrow morning will be the final day I lace up my boots and put on my Air Force uniform. I have now served my country in uniform for 14 years but it is time to go.

As I was out-processing today my wife (who will be leaving service next month) and I were asked numerous times “Why don’t you just stay in one more enlistment for your retirement?”
It was somewhat difficult to answer with just one reason as to why I have decided to take off the uniform. Was it the pay and benefits? No not really (Even though I make less than $15 a hour which many people think the minimum wage should be!) Was it all the deployments? Ummmmm sorta of (I have been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia just to name a few in addition to about 25 other countries)but I love my country and would always give my life defending this great nation for my family and friends.

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So I just wanted to share a couple thoughts with all of you while I sit here thinking about my final day in uniform which will come at 0630 tomorrow morning. I currently am an AMMO troop. Our mission is to build bombs and process numerous other munitions to take the fight to the enemy. We pretty much put “Warheads on Foreheads!” But what I signed up for many years ago has changed dramatically. Even though our mission is to kill, we are more worried about upsetting someones feelings versus getting the mission done. We spend more time doing ancillary training then actually training. Even though I have a military drivers license I have to be signed off in another database to drive a vehicle and then have a competency card saying I know how to drive on top of that. That is just a few examples of why I have decided to call it quits.

And then we get to the bigger issue America. Can anyone tell me what the following names mean? Thomas Sullivan, Skip Wells, Carson Holmquist, David Wyatt, or Randall Smith? Or is this easier for you, Cecil the lion or Caitlyn Jenner? Yes we give more attention and respect to stars and animals then we do to those who continue to give their lives for this country.

I have met my greatest friends in the military. I have left home for months not knowing if I would return. I have written letters to my family just in case something happened to me while at war. I have looked war in the face and have taken the fight to the enemy. I have watched grown men cry and sat in the middle east wondering how big my kids were getting and how my beautiful wife was doing.

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So would I do it again? Absolutely! But we as Americans need to realize what is going on and return to the greatest nation we used to be! If we as a society don’t toughen up and grow thick skin then we will definitely loose the battle to those who wish ill will upon us. Perception is reality, and right now we are more scared of speaking our mind and hurting someones feelings versus doing the right thing.

In closing 99% of America knows Cecil the Lion and Caitlyn Jenner. Only 1% will know the other 5 names (4 Marines and 1 Sailor) who gave their lives in Chattanooga TN at the hands of an terrorist!

So tomorrow I will lace up the boots head into work shake a few hands and be on my way. Its been one hell of a ride. To all those I have met along the way I say “Thank You for your Service”. To my brothers and sisters overseas right now “God Speed” and I will drink a beer for you all. Continue to put Warheads on Foreheads and you will continue to be in our prayers each and every night.
By: Kris Grogan

9-18-2015 2-45-39 PM

9-7-2015 9-05-11 AMWhen I was in Iraq, I often had the chance to watch AFN, Armed Forces Network, and became aware of wonderful programs that were available to soldiers that had a direct impact on civilians. One of my favorites was the Troops to Teachers program, an educational track that was specifically designed to empower members of our military who had finished their contracts or careers to finishing their degrees in education, and transitioning to the fight for our kids’ freedom and future by becoming their teachers. The subtitle for the program was, “Proud to serve again.”

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I can think of fewer things that could be more positive in the classroom than having a soldier protecting their minds and bodies. I can think of few things that would make schools safer than having someone who would run into the fray as did the soldiers in France when they foiled a terrorist attack. And, while I come from a long line of teachers, both male and female, there is one thing that male soldiers can do in particular, and that is, even if only in a small way, to satisfy what can only be described as “daddy hunger.”

Here in the Southeast, the Troops to Teachers movement is alive and well. According to an article in USA Today in 2013, “… school administrators are increasingly finding that many former service members make good teachers — and they’re pushing to bring veterans into the mainstream of teacher recruitment, with hopes that their grit and perseverance can both improve student performance and lower teacher turnover rates. Nationally, about 30% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.”

That turnover rate is something that teachers who were troops can greatly reduce, if for no other reason than they know how to keep a commitment even when leadership is poor, circumstances are difficult, supplies are limited, and the future is uncertain. Teachers who possess what is known as “command presence” have the ability to inspire their students to sit up straighter just by walking in the room.

One soldier said, “My days as an enlisted U.S. Army soldier and alter working for the U.S. Military as a counselor and advisor taught me the value of leadership. Leadership, in my mind, is without a doubt the most important attribute an individual can have when leading a squad platoon, flight, division or classroom toward an objective.”

The beauty is, soldiers who have experienced poor leadership can choose to become the leaders in the classroom that perhaps they never had. They can help kids avoid all kinds of high risk behavior, because they have faced down the worst possible gangs, thugs, and injustices, and they understand that, at the end of the day, you fight for the man on your right, you fight for the man on your left, and you fight for the victory of your kids in the classroom.

For more information on the specific Troops to Teachers program here in Alabama, go to troopstoteachers.net/States/Alabama.aspx, or contact Troops to Teachers recruiter Bill Kirkland at 1-800-745-0709.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

9-7-2015 9-05-44 AM

8-23-2015 11-49-37 AMOn Wednesday, August 19, 2015, history was made, and if you’ll indulge me, I’ll tell you why it makes me sad. Two women passed Ranger school, which makes them the Army’s version of the previously mythical GI Jane. While I salute the fact that they made it through, and cannot imagine the rigors through which they passed, I cannot celebrate. The two women are officers, and are to be commended as well as thanked in advance for their service. Their names are Captain Kristen Griest, and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver, and their families have described them as “extraordinary soldiers.” I am sure they are. So, why do I sound so sour about this?

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It is because while I was in Iraq, I talked at length with soldiers, some of whom were Rangers, who objected to the idea, and it was not because they hated women. Rather, it was because they cared about them. To understand this is to try to understand the dynamics of combat, and by that I mean specifically a ground offensive.

Prior to soldiers literally occupying the physical trenches, they develop a system of relationships that is known as “battle buddies.” That person could roughly be compared to police officers who are partners. They know each other inside and out, their weaknesses, strengths, and are sworn to watch each other’s “six,” that is, their back. In the Army, the phrase they use when they are moving on foot into battle is, “Buddy set, buddy moving.”

Men will tell you that there is simply a different dynamic between guys when they are protecting each other, than when they are protecting women. A man instinctively will put himself in front of a woman in order to protect her, and he will instinctively run into danger in order to free his buddy to “get the job done.” There are those who would argue that this is not instinctive, it is rather learned behavior, and therefore, in their opinion, can be unlearned. But, there is something that will not ever be unlearned, and that is the power of sexual tension, especially in a combat zone.

At the end of the day, when they all come back from seeing and doing God knows what in order to keep us safe, to ask soldiers of opposite genders to sleep in the same tent as though they are androgynous is sheer madness. I don’t want to think about how tough it would be for either gender, married or single.

While I am not privy to what the details of the training requirements are for Rangers, and I most sincerely hope that they were not lowered for the women due to the fact that on average a man has 45% more upper body strength than a woman. Even that difference in strength is not the point.

I have seen women contribute significantly to a war effort. I don’t even have an objection to them fighting from the sky. But if you think guys are going to be at the top of their game wondering for a split second if their female battle buddy can kick in the door as they follow, that split second is one that could cost everyone their life. And that is why I am not celebrating the sight of a female Ranger with a shaved head, who will receive her pin today at Ft. Benning.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-23-2015 11-49-58 AM

8-7-2015 1-44-42 PMI am going to take a risk and broach a dicey subject, (especially here in the State of Alabama,) and I have no desire to offend anyone. People for whom I care deeply are in a fierce battle against obesity, and I am their champion, as are other Athens Now columnists and clients. I am blessed to own two businesses, the newspaper and my Juice Plus+ Franchise. Our multi-billion dollar Juice Plus+ corporation is committed to “inspire healthy living around the world.” I have had my own struggles with weight, and I am not here to shame or wag fingers.

However, we need to have a frank discussion about what has just happened as far as lowering fitness standards in our military, and that is going to step on some toes. As of Aug 4th, the Navy announced that it was embracing a “more realistic standard,” when it comes to the body fat composition of its sailors. As a matter of readiness and the overall ability to defend us, this, in my opinion is a dangerous move.

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I observed first hand while I was in Iraq ,that the National Guard in particular had people, (fine people, I might add,) arrive in country with a serious weight problem. Good hearted career soldiers would take them under their wing, work with them, and get them to a literal “fighting weight,” which as far as building morale was a positive thing. However, this should not be something that is addressed on the battle field; this needs to be taken care of beforehand. Why am I making such a big deal about this? Because when a soldier is both overweight and out of shape, they cannot do the job for which they signed on, and that is to protect and defend.

Our armed services are experiencing a literal “squeeze,” and it is not just confined to fitting into one’s uniform, or being able to “drop and give me 20” without ending up in sick bay. There has been a systematic, (and in my view, intentional) lowering of morale. Everything is under attack: morality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, support of our troops from the top down, and an estimated 15% say that their “commitment is waning.” Trust for the CNC is down to 15%. Contrast that with the fact that 1400 sailors were drummed out of the service because they couldn’t meet the fitness requirements, and for the first time in six years, recruitment quotas are not being met. Hopefully now you are starting to get an idea of the depth of the mess in which we find ourselves.

It was my honored and professional duty to build the morale of our troops for three years while living in the combat zone that was Operation Iraqi Freedom, and this set of mixed messages is not only unacceptable, it is truly crazy-making. You cannot on the one hand lower fitness standards, morality standards and freedom of religion standards, and on the other hand decry the fact that you cannot get anyone to be willing to sign up, even for a brief season of their life, to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Something indeed is going to have to give, and the odds are that it will not be in our favor.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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7-17-2015 12-30-37 PMLast week, near Ft. Lewis in Tacoma WA, a currently active female soldier entered a restaurant to have some wings and a beer with someone who would never show up at the table: her brother who had died in Iraq while protecting us. Was she delusional? No, she was just creating her own ritual, very similar to the lunch that is held every year for Vietnam MIA soldiers, and that always has an extra chair at the table, as well as an empty place setting. I have been to one of those at our own Alabama Vets’ Museum, and I will never forget how moving it was, or how grateful I continue to be for the forgiveness of God and ‘Nam vets for my former stupidity.

The scene in the Northwest was the Wild Wings Restaurant, and the female soldier came in, ordered a Blue Moon and a Corona, (two different brands of beer) and for a moment hit a snag: in Washington State, you can order only one beer at a time, and cannot order ahead for the person who is going to join you. Her server, whose name is Brian Avey, politely explained the law. The soldier politely explained that she was there to honor her brother, who would not be joining them because he fell in battle.

7-17-2015 12-31-40 PMAvey relented, rightfully upholding the spirit of the law, the soldier ate her meal, and the untouched, opened Corona sat next to her the entire time in the space that would have been filled by her brother. The restaurant also didn’t charge her for his beer. She left it there and on her receipt wrote a brief thank you note to the server and the restaurant which said:
“Thank you. An act of kindness goes a long way. It means a lot to me. Have a great rest of your day.—Greatful [sic] Soldier”

Mr. Avey finished his shift, went home to the ubiquitous Facebook, and wrote a post that has now gone viral. It said:

“After she left, I didn’t have the heart to dump the beer out and throw it away, so I put it on top of the cooler next to the American Flag. When I showed my boss his response was Amazing… He said ‘That’s Fine, just do me a favor, put a fresh Lime in it Every Morning.’”

A fresh lime every morning. What a profoundly simple and dear way to say thank you to a soldier who gave his life for us, as well as a way to honor his active duty sister. While I realize that at some point the beer is going to have to be disposed of, I am personally grateful for the response of the server, the response of the restaurant, and the response of the manager. I also deeply hope that the Health Department of the State of Washington, as well as the State Liquor Board, or whatever other governing body which manages open bottles of Corona will let the lime be refreshed for as long as Wild Wings deems fit.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-17-2015 12-31-24 PM

7-3-2015 2-52-02 PMOnce upon a time, in the State of Georgia, there was a Baptist Church that was founded before the United States of America. It was the year 1774, and the founding pastor of Abilene Baptist Church was arrested for “preaching in Georgia.” The next pastor, a man by the name of Reverend Loveless Savage, was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army.

Abilene Baptist Church has had a long relationship with the Army, and Ft. Gordon is not far from it. For the past 20 years, there has been a patriotic service held on the Sunday that falls the closest to the 4th of July, and Ft. Gordon has provided the color guard. However, that tradition has abruptly come to an end this year.

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The Army has decided that it is against its policies to officially participate in any church service, even one that is dedicated to thanking God for the freedom bought and purchased by the blood of soldiers. The church is stunned. “It was an absolute shock,” said Brad Whitt, the current pastor of Abilene Baptist Church. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America – when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building.”

“We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort,” said Pastor Whitt. “We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honor our military folks.”

“That’s what makes this so sad,” Pastor Whitt said.. “This is what we’ve come to in our nation – where even just representing the colors is some sort of political thing.”
“They have participated for the past two decades and now they are saying – no,” he said. “This is just another example of the secularization of America.”

It seems that we are trying to break the sound barrier when it comes to the speed by which we are flying away from our values, as well as our history. I think of the fact that just two years ago I got a chance to worship with General Jerry Boykin of Blackhawk Down fame at a similar 4th of July service in a Baptist church here in Alabama. Are we next? Could it get to the point that even someone who is no longer wearing a uniform could be stopped from preaching because once upon a time he wore a uniform? I realize that sounds far-fetched, but honestly, almost nothing shocks me anymore.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the church service. I wonder if the so-called “separation of church and state” will ever get to the point that it will become illegal to say the Pledge inside of a church building?

We are turning away from God so quickly it is dizzying, and if the Army decides it can’t include God, there is no point celebrating the 4th of July at all, inside a church, or out in the park, because we’ll be done.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

7-3-2015 2-52-22 PM

6-18-2015 2-31-19 PMFour hundred and fifty US troops have been sent by their Commander-in-Chief back to Iraq, and I am sure it must have galled POTUS to do so. Why? Because he declared the war in Iraq to be over. I know that there are those who will take issue with me, saying that this is what should have happened, but I lived amongst Iraqis for three years, and this was their fear: that the Coalition would leave before they could handle things on their own. That is exactly what has happened, and it is heartbreaking.

It did not help at all that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pushed through a resolution to announce their intent to see to it that the US withdraw by a certain date, which was a truly idiotic if not treacherous move. “Hey, let’s just announce that we are out of here, let our enemies bide their time (which they did,) and they can wait ‘til we’re gone, take over, and we can go back and finish the job! Sounds like a plan!”

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History tells us that the same thing happened in Vietnam. The Viet Cong knew they were losing, even though our media said otherwise and were very close to surrendering. Then we left, and millions were slaughtered.

To have our President assure us that effectively bold and resolved leadership is in fact present by having a news conference that announces that we still don’t have a plan as to how to defeat ISIS is past pathetic, and utterly predictable.

Truly, if I were not aware of the Scriptural promises to Iraq, I would have no reason to have any hope at all. And, I am intrigued by the number of troops chosen to go back. 450. What will they be able to do?

Then I think about the history of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in Israel, where true miracles happened, along the lines of the Gideon’s 300 story in the Bible. Insanely outnumbered, the IDF had documented Divine intervention on a number of occasions, and the Syrians fled. Could we see something similar?

It is estimated that if ISIS is not defeated, then 2 million Iraqi Christians, (let alone Muslims who are not considered to be fervent enough believers) will be slaughtered. It is indeed a portending holocaust.

Yet, there are tales emerging of ISIS members who have had dreams of Jesus appearing to them and telling them, “Stop killing my people.” One of these secret ISIS converts had a Christian believer look at him shortly before he was martyred say, “I know you are going to kill me, here is my Bible.” It was through that experience and the subsequent dreams he had that turned him upside down, and he is not alone.

Another thing to consider is the role of the Kurds. They typically have had resolve when it comes to resisting. Certainly that was the case when Saddam was in power, and the situation just may cause Iraqis, whether they be Sunni, Shia or Kurdish to be forced to come together. Or not. All I know from experience is that there are Iraqis who will do anything to be free, and may the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grant them peace.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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