Commentary: Mariano Pidlaoan is an example of a Christian soldier


COLUMBUS, Ga. —  While preaching at Salem Baptist Church in Dalton recently, I met a dear woman who asked me to pray for her brother, Bobby Jones, who has been missing in action since November 28, 1972. He was fighting in Vietnam when he was either killed in action or captured by the North Vietnamese.

The sweet lady, who was wearing a bracelet with the likely date of her brother’s last combat mission, is looking for closure on a chapter in her life and asked me to pray that her brother would come home alive or that his remains be shipped back to the states so she could write the last pages in the biography of his heroic life. 

The conversation with her reminded me of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. The neoclassical marble sarcophagus has provided a final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members. Unknown soldiers from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984.

During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, mounting pressure led national leaders to establish a memorial to recognize American service members who were engaged in the Vietnam War. On Memorial Day, May 28, 1984, a casket was placed in Arlington National Cemetery in honor of the Vietnam War Unknown. 

Over the course of my life, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful Christians who have served in the United States military. I suppose I am most familiar with Fort Benning, the sixth largest military installation in the U. S., because I have visited the base on several occasions, preached in Columbus often, and have become acquainted with military personnel who are a part of our Georgia Baptist Convention churches. 

There is one United States Army veteran who immediately comes to mind -  Mariano Pidlaoan.

Mariano Pidlaoan, is a member of Pinehurst Baptist Church and has become a great encourager and prayer warrior on my behalf. He was born in the Philippine Islands, where his father was a military scout for the U.S. Army in WWII.  The Pidlaoan family moved to the United States when Mariano was a child. 

Mariano has credited his father for lessons he learned early in life, explaining, “My father instilled in me the importance of treating people fairly and with respect and that family is important.  I thank the Lord for a wise father.”

As the days turned into years, Mariano’s three older brothers joined the U.S. Army. As a high school student, he was inspired by their stories about serving our country in the military. 

Mariano recalled, “After graduating from high school, I walked into the U.S. Army recruiting office and expressed my interest in joining the military. The recruiter showed me a film about infantry training, and it captivated my attention and I found what I was seeking. My 22-year journey in the U. S. Army started from that moment in 1983 into the 21st century until 2005.”

Every person in military service has an MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty. Mariano served both as an Infantryman and as part of a unit known as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle Infantryman.

One of Pidlaoan’s deployments was to Bosnia Herzegovina, one of the six republics that separated from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Each succession was contested, with the most horrific destruction and violence occurring in centrally located Bosnia Herzegovina.

Pidlaoan reported, “The most challenging experience while in the army was during the first rotational deployment to Bosnia Herzegovina. The command put together a squad that I led with different soldiers that I had never worked with before. We were sent to augment another unit that was deploying. 

“Leading different personalities of new soldiers, adjusting, and learning the augmented unit’s standard operating procedures, and working with different chain-of command on a real-world mission was a leadership challenge. Despite the challenges, we accomplished all our assigned missions for the entire eight months of deployment in a safe manner.

“I could not have served our nation,” Mariano explained, “without the love, backing, and support of my wife, Letha, and my daughter, Megan. The pressures of military life, the long periods of deployment and the possible dangers of military encounters take a toll on a soldier’s spouse and family. I thank my God for the sacrifices my wife made to support while serving our country.

“My wife was a young mother living away from home in foreign places and playing dual roles as mother and father to our daughter.  She kept a loving and safe home and operated our household with greater efficiency than any military deployment. Military wives are the “unsung heroes” of a soldier’s life. My wife set aside her personal goals to provide the support I needed to have a successful military career for over two decades. My wife is truly a Proverbs 31 woman for her worth is far above rubies.”  

Although not born in the United States, Mariano Pidlaoan loves America. He recently explained, “I’ve been to numerous countries and experienced different cultures. However, the USA is the best country in the entire world and I am proud to be an American. I love this country because of the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Furthermore, we have the freedom to go wherever we want to go and be all that we can be.”

I have discovered that devoted military personnel often find it easy to commit wholeheartedly to other endeavors and causes. Mariano Pidlaoan is a devoted follower of Christ. He testified, “Pinehurst Baptist Church is where I first heard about Jesus and received Him as my Savior. Pinehurst is where I first encountered genuine Christian love and friendship.  

“Subsequent to trusting Christ to save me I spent one year in South Korea and on Christmas day, 2001 at noon I was on my bed reading Forged by Fire by Dr. Bob Reccord and had an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ. I got down on my knees and surrendered my life to Him completely. Today He perpetually provides the hunger and thirst in my heart to seek Him as each day begins."

Pidlaoan continued, “I read the Holy Scriptures and meditate on them while having my coffee every single morning. Then I get on my knees to pray and to praise and worship my Lord. I have arthritis in my knee, but I will continue to worship Him on my knees as long as I can do so physically. I always arise early, and prayer is my priority of the day. It is by God’s grace that I am what I am. All to Him I owe.”

Through the teaching of his Sunday School class and his commitment to the worship services, Mariano is becoming a mature Christian and it shows in a myriad of ways. 

Pinehurst’s pastor, Dr. Tony Dickerson, commented, “Mariano Pidlaoan is an outstanding Christian. He loves the Lord and he loves the church. He is the leader of our media ministry and is willing to serve the Lord with great devotion and unabated love.”

Mariano Pidlaoan has been a faithful and loyal soldier for the United States, but he has become a valuable and valiant soldier of the cross.