By Kelly Carr
While thinking about the topic of freedom, I spoke with Matt Braden, former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Matt served two overseas terms, guarding detainees in Iraq in 2008 and leading personal security detail for his Lieutenant Colonel in Afghanistan in 2011-12.
Why did you choose to join the military?
I feel a need to serve, whether it is locally or abroad. I felt there was something more I could do to help our country. I was working one day as a police officer and I thought, I don’t want to be in my later years and regret not joining the Marine Corps. I want to be at peace with my God and myself when my time comes.
How did your service for our country both strengthen and challenge your faith?
My faith was challenged during my last deployment. My mother-in-law was dying of cancer, and I had to deploy to Afghanistan. It was a challenge because I was in a faraway land outside of the wire for weeks on end and not able to communicate with my wife. I was not able to comfort my wife and guide her as a Christian man should lead his family. I yelled, screamed, and cried at God on multiple occasions.
Over the course of the deployment, my close friend William gave me some advice: “God’s going to call our number one day. Do you want to explain why you hated him or explain why in the hard times you praised him?” I was reminded very quickly that God is just and merciful. I began to pray more, and I began to see God move in ways that brought me home safe. He was not going to give my wife and me something that we could not battle together. I began praising him for protecting me. He led me home in time to be there for my wife and her family as her mother passed.
How did serving in the Middle East change your perspective on freedom?
The thought of freedom to me is a difficult one. One must make sacrifices in order to be free. Freedom isn’t just something that you have; someone has to pay the price. For instance joining the military is a sacrifice for freedom. I am willing to forgo my free time, fight, and even die so that my friends and family don’t have to. Freedom is important because without it, people no longer have the right to choose what is best for them.
My time over there has given me a better idea on what freedom truly is. Being overseas has shown me what it means to live under the rule of an iron fist. Women are not allowed to be in the company of a man unless it’s their family or they have a male family member with them. Women in our country have the right to vote, dress however they want, worship whatever they want, and love whomever they want. My time overseas has shown me that I will do whatever it takes for my wife, my mother, and my friends so they can make the free decisions they want to.
I am choosing to surrender my own freedom for a short time so that others may have it forever.