Student National Guardsman heads to Iraq

At 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 5, Calvin junior Jordan Kohl exchanged his dorm room for a barracks as he officially joined his company — Army National Guard Delta (D) Company 1-125 — for eventual deployment to Iraq.

Jordan KohlKohl, a philosophy major and resident advisor (RA) in Calvin's Bolt-Heyns-Timmer (BHT) residence hall, joined the guard back in April of 2003. He had complex reasons for doing so.

"I didn't join the guard because I felt so strongly in support of the cause of the war," he says. "I joined because once the war had started, it got me thinking that now our country had a responsibility to stay over there and fix this. And I couldn't really say our country had a responsibility to stay over there when I would sit over here in college."

Kohl, 21, first joined his infantry unit at Camp Shelby, near Hattiesburg, Miss. for four to five months of training specific to his mission before he heads to Iraq.

Despite his conflicted emotions on interrupting his college career, he says, "I do believe in doing everything I can to keep the guys I'm with safe. I feel a sense of responsibility. I’m not exactly sure why."

It's a sense of responsibility Kohl has already demonstrated as a Calvin RA, says BHT resident director Jay Wise.

"He's been fantastic," says Wise. "He's been able to relate to the guy on his floor really well. He's been able to be a resource as well as be a friend to them — and hold them accountable as well."

Kohl's departure — and his convictions — have had a profound impact on the residence hall staff.

"I think the situation has taken our RA staff to another level," says Wise. "It's brought the whole sense of the war home to us. It's easy to see stuff about the war on TV and read about it in the newspaper, but when it affects someone on your staff or in your building — well, wow, it hits home."

Sadie Healy, a Calvin junior and another RA in BHT, says it was hard to say goodbye to Kohl.

"It was a pretty big shock when we found out," she says. "I think one of the things we've all come to grips with is as much as we want Jordan here, God wants him over there. You can't question God on this one, really."

Phyllis Kohl, Jordan’s mother, who visited him at Calvin from his boyhood home in Crete, Nebraska, before he left, had a little longer period of adjustment to her son's call-up.

"He pre-warned me," she says, emphasizing that Jordan's enlistment almost two years ago was not an impetuous decision.

"He didn't jump into it," she recalls. "He thought about it for a long time. He investigated everything for a long time. He prayed about it. And I told him not to do it."

She became reconciled to Jordan's decision, in part, because of the way Calvin friends — most of them RAs like Healy — stood by him.

"I think that one of the neat things is that Jordan's friends now are so supporting of him and so important to him," she says. "That's such a good thing, but that's a hard thing to leave."

Jordan concurs. He admits that despite his convictions, he has conflicting emotions about the unknowns of going.

"The biggest fear is the unknown of coming back," he says, "coupled with what it's going to be like when I get there, and the loneliness of being there."

His friends have helped him sort through it.

"They're coping with their emotions about it," he says, "but they've also reminded me of God's promises. I think God is going to bring me through it no matter what. He's not going to just abandon me and let me be altered by my circumstances."

And he struggled to say goodbye, if temporarily, to a community where he felt himself at home in such a short time.

"I love Calvin — everything about it," he says. "I love the community. I love the people that I'm involved with — being with my staff. I love living in the dorm. I miss the library and the Jellema Room and the philosophy program…and even the dining halls."