FALLUJAH, Iraq (BP)–Some have joined the military for financial stability while others wanted adventure. There are a multitude of reasons, but one Marine, Cpl. Benjamin A. Varner, a radio technician with Communications Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, joined for a different reason: a stronger testimony.
“I wanted to make a difference and be somewhere my faith was challenged,” Varner said. “I felt as though I never put my faith in God out there on the line…. Now I have my own testimony.”
Varner is a 28-year-old, 6-foot 2-inch Marine in Iraq who was among the U.S. forces that routed insurgents from Fallujah. With a love for life and a good sense of humor, he is known in his shop as “spoony love.”
The Houston native graduated from East Texas Baptist University with a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministries and is a former church youth minister.
But three years after leaving college, Varner decided he wasn’t being challenged enough in his faith or making the type of difference in life as he once hoped.
“I grew up as a preacher’s son,” Varner said. “I went to school originally thinking I would become a preacher as well.
“Many people would ask me, ‘Do you believe in God?’ and ‘Have you ever had to rely just on Him?’ I had all the Sunday School answers, but I didn’t have those answers through my own experiences. So I decided to join the Corps.”
Originally, Varner intended to join the Marine Corps as a commissioned officer, but there was a waiting period for officer programs at the time, so he decided to enlist.
“I was so excited about joining, I just said, ‘Sign me up,’” Varner said. “Also, I thought that if I later on became an officer, it would represent well to other Marines that I had served as enlisted.”
Varner wanted a military occupational specialty involving electronics, so communications is where he landed.
“It worked out pretty good,” he said, smiling. “I like to talk a lot anyway.”
He repairs radios, telephones, cabling and antennas for the battalion, noting, “I conduct operation checks on devices and try to correct any deficiencies they have.”
Communications plays a very big part in all operations; therefore, the work environment can sometimes become strenuous.
“Sometimes I’m kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut of,” Varner said, shaking his head and chuckling. “What we’re doing is mission essential. These guys can’t do their job if they can’t talk.”
The reality of battle, he acknowledged, sometimes causes pain, disappointment and grief.
“War hurts when you lose a brother,” he said. “Sometimes I feel guilty like I should be out there doing what they are doing. Even though I know my job is important, I feel like the sacrifice the line companies are making are greater than mine.
“Therefore, I carry a lot of respect for them, and I pray for their families, and that the last fallen angel is the last.”
Varner is quick to describe his short-term goals but not so certain about the long term.
“Short term, I just want to get home to my wife, Jessica, and my 15-month-old son, Jaden,” he said. “For the long term I just want to earn an honorable discharge and be the best Marine I can here, and when I’m home be the best husband and father I can be.”
Varner’s senior leadership praised his contribution to their platoon.
“I have 11 Marines attached to me,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ernest J. Thomas, the communications platoon radio chief. “Out of them he is my hardest worker. He is around the clock at work. Out here without him, we would be hurting. He’s my driving force.”
“He works well above his rank,” said 1st Lt. David C. Quy, commander of the communications platoon. “He’s always anticipating the next move. I think all the Marines gravitate toward him, regardless of rank.”
Varner said his experiences so far in the Marines have helped his walk with God.
“If I’m going to tell people about God and about something I believe in, then I need to go out there and make sure I believe it,” he said. “This has enabled me to see God’s hand even more than ever and has strengthened my faith.”
Robert E. Jones Sr. is a sergeant with Marine Corps News.