In the National Geographic miniseries The Long Road Home (Tuesdays, 10 PM/9 CT and on demand), the focus has been on the US soldiers during their attempt to survive an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq. It has not been pretty—several soldiers have been injured and a few have died. The families of the battalion still do not know what’s happened or if their loved ones are okay. But a different individual was the main focus of the fifth episode: Jassim al-Lani, the Iraqi interpreter embedded within the First Calvary Division.
Using flashbacks, Jassim’s story came to life as he sat at a table with his aunt, repeating, “I should have been there.” She was beaten and robbed, but the American contingent there did nothing to help her. It didn’t make Jassim (Darius Homayoun) thankful for the US; that’s for sure. When he was later asked if he would be an interpreter for the US, he refused, choosing instead to follow the insurgency. He was passed over for a higher position but later discovered that being a part of the rebellion had potentially grave consequences for himself and others close to him.
On the battlefront, Lt. Shane Aguero (EJ Bonilla) and the trapped soldiers on the roof were quickly running out of supplies. Aguero was injured by a grenade but still continued to lead his men. Inside the home, Jassim remained with the family along with one soldier. The inability to communicate with the family made for some tense sequences as the father needed his medicine for a heart condition and nearly died. When the bullets suddenly stopped flying, an uneasy calm fell over the area.
In another section of town, Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger (Jeremy Sisto) and his contingent continued to hide, having no way to communicate with the rest of the battalion. A group found them (thankfully), but they were in no less danger than before.
After the skies had gone dark, Aguero’s troop suddenly found themselves caught in the middle of two groups of fighters using Iraqi civilians (and children!) as human shields. Jassim attempted to talk sense to the insurgents, but got nowhere. Lt. Aguero had to make a soul-scarring choice: either let the groups come closer and kill/capture his contingent and the family housing them, or start firing on everyone in self-defense—men, women, and children included. With one word, a hail of bullets pierced the night as the scene cut to black. Ouch.
We’re used to making numerous choices before leaving home for work—what shampoo to use; whether to shave; if Cheerios or a bagel will constitute a good breakfast. Sometimes our choices can be more significant in nature—whether to challenge another person about an incorrect viewpoint; if we should befriend someone who’s treated us wrong in the past; attending a child’s piano recital when there’s mountains of work to accomplish at the office. But we’ll probably never have to make a decision such as Lt. Aguero’s, where someone’s going to die regardless of the choice. That scene caused me quite a bit of anguish—and it was just actors performing.
The point is this: choices are the fabric of our lives. In many cases, we can quickly sense the effects of our actions (if we eat; we’re not hungry, for example). But for many of our choices, the effects may not be seen immediately and can have far-reaching consequences that can last for generations. Therefore, we need to be wise with our actions in there here and now. The book of Proverbs talks about wisdom in numerous locations—to be wise is to make the right choice consistently as we listen to God. It’s certainly not easy, but with practice, we’ll be ready to take on both the easy decisions as well as the difficult ones in life.
Be warned: in the next episode, Staff Sgt. Miltenberger’s troops will be challenged in the ways of war. Bullets will fly. And more choices will be made that impact others’ lives. Make sure to tune in (or set your DVR)!