In the last ten days, I have experienced a smorgasbord of new experiences. I have traveled by C130 into a war zone on Good Friday and by Blackhawk helicopter to my new home (I use the term loosely) on Easter. I have seen Iraq first hand and put images to names I had heard of and read about. I have picked up from the desert floor sea shells and pondered the fact that at one time this was an ocean. I have looked down on a land that has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives from the gunner’s view of a Blackhawk helicopter and wondered if it has all been worth the cost, and decided it was.
I have met Iraqi’s and bartered with them for a few simple items. I have asked many questions and continue to believe these people want the same thing we want, to live in peace and to pursue life and liberty. Although, for them freedom is a murky image, they want it so bad they are willing to risk all and place themselves in our hands so they might one day achieve what we take for granted. I have looked into a young man’s eyes as he explained to me he is not an interpreter because he is afraid for his life, if he were to become one.
I have traveled the country side far enough to see the hunger in children’s eyes as we toss a few gifts from our vehicle. I have also traveled far enough to know in this country if you make a mistake it may mean your life, or worse yet the life of your buddy. And I watched as thousands of pounds of ordinance were blown sky high, never again to harm anyone.
I have enjoyed the hospitality of an Iraqi businessman as he served us lunch in his home. And later I learned a grave lesson about foreign bacteria as I lay in the gravel outside my billet retching and worse, in the middle of the night. I was glad they don’t let chaplain’s carry guns. I wanted to put myself out of my misery. I enjoyed the humor that my first week in Iraq was about as eventful as one would ever hope.
I have for the first time since deployment preached to a full church. Our little chapel, for two services swelled with soldiers wanting to worship their God, and retain the normalcy of faith. I swelled with pride, on behalf of our soldiers, as the 1-125 showed up one after another. To me it was a symbol that we will be OK, come what may. I serve with good people who want to continue to relate to God and each other. It’s enough.
I rejoiced because a soldier got to go home for a daughters wedding and mourned with a soldier who received a “Dear John” letter, and visited with a soldier whose mother recently died. I have laughed, mourned, taught, listened, prayed, confronted, counseled, been counseled, and preached. I have rejoiced with those who have been rejoicing and mourned with those who mourn.
I have learned that intimacy has little to do with location and everything to do with your heart. I learned that families can grow closer through separation, and that I married above my station in life. But, mostly this week I experienced the sense that God is in control. I learned that even at war, you can be at peace. I know more about the “peace that surpasses all understanding” today, then I did a week ago. I learned that I can be “like a tree planted by streams of living water”, even here. I can because I am being cared for by God, and those God has sent. So, I guess I have grown. It’s has been a good week, only forty-eight left. My counsel to the soldiers of the 1-125 FA STRIKE after the first ten days is simple: Don’t forget to grow. Don’t forget to help your buddy grow. Then we can all go home better people for getting through this together.