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Storyteller | Combat wounded veteran | Metalhead | Designer | My war memoir—Where Cowards Go to Die—drops June 28, 2022: https://benjaminsledge.com

LIVED THROUGH THIS

An Afghanistan veteran weighs in on whether what we did mattered in the ‘Forever War’

Left: U.S. evacuation in Kabul (2021). Right: U.S. evacuation in Saigon (1975). Photos courtesy of the author

On December 10, 2003, Taliban and al-Qaida operatives launched a complex attack against the small forward operating base I’d been stationed at for eight months. In the barrage and carnage that followed, my friend Steve and I were wounded in action. I took shrapnel to my arms and lower back, had my wrist fractured, and was knocked unconscious. When I came to, muscle memory took over, and I ran out under a gauntlet of explosions searching for medics while Steve slowly bled out because a piece of shrapnel had hit a vein in his arm.

The attack ended when an…


When calamity strikes, leaders emerge. Just not anymore.

Left: Governor Gavin Newsom; Wikipedia | Center: Ted Cruz Meme; Bighurtrocks | Right: Pastor Carl Lentz with Oprah; Instagram

I was confused when the soldier pointed toward the front of the line. Men in fatigues stood conversing, waiting for their turn to eat among an endless sea of people. Sheepishly, I moved past the soldiers who continued to joke, and though I was cutting in line, they paid me no mind. Scanning each rank, I continued to make my way forward until I reached my posse — the lowest of the low — Privates. Having recently graduated basic training, I carried the second lowest rank one could have in the United States Armed Forces. I was used to Drill…


I saw it firsthand, and those who interfered against the human rights violation received disciplinary action.

Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

I remember the moon was full the night we entered the small hut where the little girl twirled in circles around men gathered in a circle. The first scent to greet us as we opened the door was the distinct odor of hash. A band sat in the corner playing furiously, like some scene out of Star Wars, and inside the circle of men, the young girl danced while Afghan men randomly threw large quantities of currency into the air. …


Everyone agrees something is fundamentally wrong with the church, and 1 in 3 have recently left. What’s the solution?

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

“Virtually everyone agrees that something is radically wrong with the church. Inside, there is more polarization and conflict than ever, with all factions agreeing (for different reasons) that the church is in deep trouble. Outside the church, journalists, sociologists, and all other observers either bemoan or celebrate the church’s decline numerically, institutionally, and in influence.”
— Tim Keller, The Decline of Mainline

Church camps were all the rage growing up. I’m not sure how many I’ve been to in my life, but in the mid-1990s I doubled up. …


LIVED THROUGH THIS

20 years later, the aftereffects still linger in my life and the lives of others

South tower collapse | 9/11 Historical and Digital Archives | Thomas Nilsson, Getty Images

I was hungover when the phone rang.

The night before, I’d been partying with my fraternity brothers, so I answered and immediately hung up. Despite hanging up the call, the rings came once more, so I answered.

“Hello?”

“Benjamin!” The voice was frantic on the other end. “Turn on the TV now!”

“Mooooommmmm,” I groaned. “It’s, like, super early. What do you want?”

My roommate echoed my sentiments from his bed, but my mother’s frenzied voice continued to climb in pitch. “Turn on the TV!”

I climbed down from my loft after throwing my old Nokia phone into a recliner…


Many influential pastors preach against greed, yet are accumulating millions themselves.

Photo by Mackenzie Marco on Unsplash and Photo by Junior REIS on Unsplash

I’ve been biting my tongue till it bleeds
While you’re building monuments of yourself to sell
Go ahead make sure they’re with you when you’re buried
Bury him deep
Or another dollar for the holy coward
Bury him deep
Or another lie, they love the holy coward
— Phinehas, Holy Coward

While investigating sexual abuse inside the Southern Baptist Convention in 2018, I discovered that evangelical superstar pastor, Matt Chandler, owned a steak company.

Chandler is well known inside the Southern Baptist Convention and among evangelical circles, especially after a lengthy battle with a rare form of brain cancer. His…


On losing the ones you love and the beauty in tragedy

First lieutenant Reginald Courtland Whitson. Photo courtesy of author.

Grandpa flipped his car end over end on the way to my wedding.

My grandmother recalled that before the wreck, he’d been fiddling with the knob on the radio. While tuning the station, he looked at his bride of more than fifty years and smiled. Then he lost control of the car.

Grandpa died shortly after the wreck, connected to all manner of tubes. His wounds were too egregious to recover from and he slipped neatly into the great beyond. I got word hours before the rehearsal dinner that he’d passed and grandma was in critical condition. I wasn’t certain…


There are 7 million new gun owners as of January 2021, which presents major complications and safety issues

Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash

On a rainy afternoon in March 2020, I stood behind a counter waiting to pick up the lower receiver of a rifle build I’d been working on. No one was in masks at this point in the pandemic, but there was a strict occupancy limit because of the threat of COVID-19. A line snaked its way around the building, and people perused the aisles; many looking lost.

As I waited, I couldn’t help but overhear a nearby conversation. A young Asian man quizzed an employee about pistols and rifles. He seemed interested in purchasing an AR-15, but because of the…


On homecoming, alienation, reentry, and belonging

Photo by Sam Rupsa on Unsplash

The wooden sticks jammed through the fluorescent red meat reminded me of the broken figure. Staring at the skewers, I remembered the viscera waterfall where the dark-skinned body in a blue truck had his guts poured out over the driver’s side cushion. The right portion of his skull had been caved in and the air reeked of rotting meat dabbed with a few drops of a knock-off Calvin Klein cologne. Hovering over the body, I snapped a photo and left before the urge to empty the contents of my stomach took over.

Maybe I’ll stick with the broccoli.

Steam rose…


Growing older brings about wisdom and perspective. Here’s what I wish someone would have told me.

Author through the years: (Left) In my 20s (Center) In my 30s (Right) Current Day

Years ago I read a lackluster book that talked about the stages in a man’s life. While the book was meh, I liked how the author broke down the stages men tend to go through. In our 20s, we’re wild and carefree. During your 30s, you’re more set on becoming established and building your own little empire (think home and career). Yet in your 40s you often mellow out, growing wise and calm.

I’ve thought a lot about that this last week. My desire in my 40s is to be a lot less piss and vinegar and a whole helluva…

Benjamin Sledge

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