In the US Navy, I served in Desert Shield/Storm/Provide Comfort and other missions. The commandment says, “Thou shall not murder.” Well, Father, I’ve killed a lot of people.
I’m just trying to make things right with the Lord. I’ve talked to others, but none of their answers seem to work. I live with this every day and need to figure it out.
“War is hell,” said Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Today’s technology makes it even worse by physically separating people even more.
As long as you did not kill people whom you knew were innocent noncombatants, you did not commit the sin of murder. If you did kill people you knew were innocent noncombatants, I encourage you to confess that as a sin and receive God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The killing of enemy combatants is regrettable because of the loss of human life, but it is not murder.
We cannot rewind time and undo a past action, but each day we can choose which past actions we will reinforce or dilute, which ones more truly characterize us. Your wartime experience can fuel your determination to become a peacemaker, “an artisan of peace,” as St. John Paul II said. It is entirely possible that St. Francis of Assisi killed soldiers from nearby Perugia, which was at war with Assisi when Francis was about 20 years old. Francis went on to become one of the greatest peacemakers the world has ever known. Allow him to guide you.