proud to serve
by John C. Carey, Chaplain (Captain)
IT'S A CASUAL AFTERNOON, and I am sitting on a chartered bus with my wife, Lynne, and our youngest son, Bobby, age 12. We are returning home from a football game. I’m especially happy to be home with my family. I’ve been an Army Chaplain now more than five years, serving with the 82nd Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division.
While serving in Iraq in continued support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, my unit was located at Forward Operations Base Gabe. Iraq is still very hot in late September with daily temperatures well over 100 degrees. Add the risk of meeting the unexpected just around the corner in the form of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), or VBIEDs (Vehicle Born IEDs), not to mention possible ambushes by enemy insurgents, and things can feel a great deal hotter.
A TIME OF WAR
Task Force 82nd Engineers made great successes during the year with surprise raids, capturing several insurgency fighters and loads of weapon caches and bomb material. Our soldiers helped to build numerous public schools and funded and supported local medical clinics. Our men and women in uniform have accomplished many good things.
It was a year of sacrifice being away from my family; however, I am proud, grateful, and humbled for the privilege to serve. Serving my Lord, my soldiers, and my country makes the sacrifices easier to bear.
There is nothing quite like sharing a conversation with one or more soldiers as we sip coffee with our chow, especially if we’re eating our meals on the side of an Army vehicle, or standing in the rain or snow. Okay, eating in the rain is not fun, but where else do you get to share with soldiers and hear stories of their families? I would choose these moments over being warm and dry in a city somewhere, listening to young civilians complain about their studies or jobs over gourmet coffee.
IN TIMES LIKE THESE
In times like these, I think of our soldiers. They are heroes who serve with little or no complaint when they are sent to do the work very few Americans want to do. They are heroes in my book because they defend our nation and our way of life, including the opportunity to worship the Lord, and tell others about His name.
In times like these, I think of other heroes such as Ibraham, an Iraqi interpreter who is doing his part to bring about a new way of life and freedom to his fellow Iraqis. More important, Ibraham is a Christian who loves the Lord. He is part of a growing number of believers in the nation. Ibraham wants to see the gospel spread throughout a free Iraq. He is willing to do all he can for his country, even if it means sacrificing his own life.
That almost became a reality. On December 7, 2004, the 63rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ibraham accompanied a convoy of soldiers (including me), armored vehicles from B Company, and the 82nd Engineers as they traveled to meet with town leaders and policemen nearby. Ibraham was to serve as our interpreter/liaison, as usual.
Our Convoy left the base around 0900, Iraqi local time. Less than ten miles from Gabe, we met a suspicious looking white sedan sitting on the right shoulder of the road.
Ibraham got out of the back of the commander’s vehicle, situated just 50 meters in front of the vehicle I was riding in, and opened his door which was facing the side of the sedan. Ibraham stepped out of the HMMWV. Suddenly I heard the loudest explosion of my life, and the air, even inside our vehicle several feet back, was filled with thick, gray smoke. Seconds (that seemed like small lifetimes) later my group could see that our double-armored, bulletproof shield was heavily cracked but intact. Chunks of shrapnel were imbedded in the front and the sides. Our convoy had been the victim of a suicide/homicide bomber, and an apparent VBIED attack. The ringing in my ears didn’t subside for hours.
Little was left of the car that had been used as the weapon of attack, and even less remained of the terrorist. Although seriously wounded, Ibraham survived the bombing. Thankfully, no one else was hurt from the explosion.
Despite the seriousness of the moment, as our soldiers with their M-16s formed a protective perimeter around us, Ibraham praised God for protecting him and our convoy from the worst that could have happened. I couldn’t help but smile to see Ibraham with his finger pointing toward Heaven, praising God for protection.
In times like these, I think of the heroes who “keep the home fires burning,” Families and friends who support our soldiers with love, prayers, letters, e-mail, care packages, and more.
In times like these we all face a challenge to serve God today, regardless of whether we wear uniforms, dress suits, or blue jeans. With the recent hurricanes and their aftermath, attempted divisions in our nation and the world, and constant assaults on our beliefs and faith from the schoolhouse to the Supreme Court, we have much to be concerned about.
Thank God, however, that in times like these we serve the Hero for all Heroes…the King of Kings and LORD of Lords. Jesus will never let us down. It’s our job to spread the Word to the lost that souls may be saved…not just in times like these but for all eternity.
For GOD and Country.
John C. Carey, Chaplain (Captain)
82nd Engineer Battalion
1st Infantry Division