Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Success of Surge

Here's an interesting article about Major General Lynch, and his perspective as the 3rd ID Commander in Baghdad:

"Surge Tipped Scales in Iraq"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Re-enlistment rates higher than before war

I saw this article this morning, and it echoes what I have seen in the Army: people are choosing to stay in:

Most of us in the Army love to complain about the Army (me included). If you've ever tried to submit a travel voucher, if you've ever had to "hurry up and wait," if you've ever had to learn a new set up acronyms, if you've ever sat at the Baghdad airport in the 100+ degree heat waiting to get on a C-130.... only to have your flight canceled.... those sorts of things... then you know what I'm talking about. The Army can be incredibly frustrating at times.

But guess what? We stay in. After having almost 6 months to reflect on my time in Iraq, I can say that I'm proud of my service. While there, I felt like we were making a difference, and now, with all of the good news from Iraq, my views seems justified.

As a chaplain, I have no contract. Officers don't re-enlist in the same ways as enlisted Soldiers. I didn't receive a signing bonus, and I don't "have" to stay in. But I am. And as the article shows, that is the trend Army wide.

Of course, if there were bonuses available right now, I wouldn't mind those either. :) But I'm staying in until either my body can't take it, or God shows me a different path, or my wife wants me out. But none of those have happened yet. I suspect my body will be the first to give out. :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An amazing story

I got this from my wife via email, so I'm cutting and pasting. Pretty amazing stuff:

Born at just 22 weeks - Amilla is not yet allowed home

By NICK McDERMOTT - More by this author » Last updated at 16:12pm on 22nd February 2007 A girl born after just under 22 weeks in the womb - among the shortest gestation periods known for a live birth - will remain in a hospital a few extra days as a precaution, officials said. Amillia Taylor, who weighed less than 10 ounces (283 grams), had been expected to be sent home this week. However, routine tests indicated she was vulnerable to infection, said Dr. Paul Fassbach, who has cared for the baby since shortly after she was born. "She has been fine," Fassbach said, but doctors are being extra cautious "now that she's going into the world." Video...the tiny baby who survived against all the odds
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Doctors say she is the first baby known to have survived after a gestation of fewer than 23 weeks. But full-term births usually come after 37 to 40 weeks. Amillia was just 9 1/2 inches long and weighed less than 10 ounces when she was delivered by Caesarean section. She now weighs 4 1/2 pounds. She has suffered respiratory and digestive problems, as well as a mild brain hemorrhage, but doctors believe the health concerns will not have major long-term effects. "Her prognosis is excellent," said Dr. Paul Fassbach, who has cared for Amillia since her second day. Amillia was conceived in vitro and has been in an incubator since birth. She will continue to receive a small amount of supplemental oxygen even after she goes home. Scroll down for more...
Her parents Sonja and Eddie, from Homestead, Florida, were visiting friends in Miami when Mrs Taylor went into labour at just over 19 weeks pregnant, having conceived by IVF. Doctors attempted to delay the birth but eventually were forced to carry out an emergency caesarean.
Amillia Taylor weighed just under 10oz and was only 91/2 inches long at birth
Dr Guillermo Lievano, who delivered Amillia, said he was not expecting her to survive. "I was prepared for the worst and prepared to break the bad news to the mother." Amillia responded to treatment, however. During two months in an incubator, she even had plastic surgery after her left ear was partially torn off during the delivery. "I'm still in amazement," said Mrs Taylor, 37, a teacher. "I wanted her to have a chance and I knew in my heart that she was going to make it. "It was hard to imagine she would get this far. But now she is beginning to look like a real baby. Even though she's only 4lb now, she's plump to me."
scroll down for more
Ten ounces of determination: Amillia was little longer than this pen
William Smalling, neo-natologist at Baptist Children's Hospital in Miami, said: "She's truly a miracle baby. We didn't even know what a normal blood pressure is for a baby this small." Amillia's incredible story will reignite the debate over Britain's abortion laws, which campaigners say must be updated in the light of recent medical advances.
Babies can still be aborted for non-medical reasons at up to 24 weeks. Recent evidence shows that, of those born at 25 weeks, half of them manage to live.

A New Year

Well, I started blogging again in November and... it just kind of didn't get going. There are lots of excuses, but mainly it has to deal with: a) Being really busy during the pre-Christmas season and, b) finding myself far less interesting now that I have redeployed! My blog is as an Army Chaplain, and now that I have redeployed home, there is just less to talk about.

But I've enjoyed looking back over 2007 and thinking about what has changed in a year. At this time last year I was sitting in Baghdad, excited that the new year meant I could say "I'm going home this year." Just a mind trick, but it made a difference.

I'm also struck by the change in the situation in Iraq. So much has changed that most of the political campaigns (both Dem and Rep) have moved from focusing on Iraq, to a more ambiguous theme of "change."

As I begin this year, I think I'm going to have to transition my blog to a wider focus.... from just army stuff to a more devotional focus, as well as commentary on issues. It's a trick balance. I feel compelled to comment on social and political issues, but I don't want the fact that I have "Army" in my blog name to allow comments to be construed as military endorsements. So, I'll make clear, if and when I make such comments, that they will be as a private citizen (since this is a blog, and not a military site).

Speaking of which, I've ended up in the news quite a bit lately. I feel very passionately about supporting our troops and leaving Iraq as a stable secure nation (i.e., finishing the mission). So I've been involved in the political campaigns and participated in my first Iowa caucus this month. I have sought to support a candidate who is in line with my social and fiscal beliefs, but also my views on the military. In the search, I've ended up getting interviewed and photographed a handful of times, including an interview on CBS News, by Bill Whitaker. So, it's been interesting.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm going to get back to watch the BCS Championship, hoping that Ohio State can come back from behind and represent the Big Ten well!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Much Larger Army

I just read that Fred Thompson is proposing increasing the size of the Army to 775,000 people. Here is where I read the story:

Wow! I believe this is really important. This would drastically reduce the strain on Soldiers from long deployments... and would get us back in line with the size of the military that would be appropriate for a nation our size, with the demands being placed on us.

I should note that this is not an endorsement of Thompson (or any other candidate). I understand that most candidates, from both parties, are talking about increasing the size of the Army. This, however, is the most robust proposal I have heard. A larger Army would reduce the total number of deployments for all of us, and might also shorten the length of deployments.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back to Blogging on Veteran's Day

It's been a long time since I've posted. There are a ton of reasons why, but here are the two biggies:

1) I've been busy getting back into the swing of civilian life. Of course, it's not that I wasn't busy while in Baghdad :) but after being in Iraq for a year, my military related thoughts just seem more mundane.

2) I've struggled with where to go with the blog now that I'm home. I would like to add more of a theological dimension to it (since the majority of my posts from Baghdad focused on my experience of a combat zone), but I also don't want to completely change the direction I've gone.

But at the end of the day (or, rather, the beginning of today), I've just decided to blog, and it will be what it will be.

With that said, I want to say that I'm very excited about what I've been seeing/hearing in terms of our success in Baghdad now.

But this has also been a hard part of the transition: I don't feel completely at ease telling people back here (in the US) about how well things are actually going in Iraq because people here are SO negative and cynical about the war.

Things are improving. Here are just a couple of articles from the past couple of days:

-Rocket and Mortar fire at 21 month low-

-Brutalized Iraqi capital begins to breathe again-

I also recently read an excellent article in the American Legion magazine titled "12 Myths of 21st Century War." It's a great read (and a must read) which explains what most Americans misunderstand about the war in Iraq- here is the link: Click Here.

Well, that's enough for now. Today's is a day off for government employees for Veteran's Day, so it seems like a good day to get back to posting.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Free to Speak?

Now, apparently, even liberal Congressman are getting punished for saying anything good about the war (see this article). It's unfortunate that we can't have more honest discourse about the surge and the extent to which we are, or aren't, seeing progress.

Here is the full link on the article:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Staying Up With News

My blog is far less interesting now that Im home. That's fine with me. :) I've been relaxing, working on some projects at home, and preparing for some trips. My wife, the boys and I are heading to Minnesota to go to the state fair and catch a couple of Vikings games. My wife and I also have a trip planned just for ourselves.

On a different note, I want to provide links to a few interesting articles. The first is the most amazing:

SPC Alison K.: "I guess I've Done My Duty:"
(note: this young Soldier he writes about was stationed at Rustamiyah, where I was for part of my tour)

"Liberal Congressman Say Troops Have Earned More Time"
This congressman is critical of the war and voted against it, but believes things are getting better. Interesting read, though I disagree with much of his philosophy on Iraq

G.I. Joe- No longer an AMERICAN Hero? Say it isn't so....
I grew up playing with G.I. Joes in the '80s, and I cannot fathom a G.I. Joe based in Brussels, Belgium.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bishop Urges Christians to Call God Allah

This is a bit disconcerting:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Dangerous Snow Globe

I'm sitting here at the Gulfport Airport, waiting to head home. I had an interesting experience going through security.

Now, before I say any more, I want to explain that I totally respect the security, and think they do a very thankless job. They get hassled by busy travelers and no one stops to thank them for keeping our airplanes safe. I personally appreciate them and do everything I can to facilitate their work when I pass through security.

With that said....

I got stopped and turned back because I had a one inch snow globe for my six year old son. I got it in Germany. He likes getting snow globes from various places. I took it through the security at Philadelphia and Atlanta, but here in Gulfport, Mississippi they stopped me.

They pulled my bag aside, and pulled out the snow globe, and explained to me that it is a prohibited and dangerous item. They then looked through all of the stuff in my bag, and swept it for explosives. They explained that I could check the snow globe, but I could NOT bring it on board. So, I told them I would check the bag. I was then informed that I couldn't touch the bag... they had to take it, and "escort" me out. Only then could I check the bag. Quite embarrassing, to be honest. I walked back through the doors in front of people feeling about an inch tall.

Now... it doesn't help that I'm tired... having gotten very little sleep for the last 4 nights. It doesn't help that I've essentially been traveling home from a war zone for the last week, and I'm emotionally exhausted and just ready to see my family. So take my words with a grain of salt.

But... a snow globe? Seriously, a one inch, mini-snow globe? Is that what the bad guys are planning to use against us?

The irony is delicious. A Soldier returning from a combat zone is stopped for possessing a mini snow globe for his son who hasn't seen his dad in months.

I understand the standards, and this is a new standard. OK. Got it. And I appreciate the work the TSA does. They get no respect. I don't want this to be heard as a slam on the TSA workers.

But... wow. A snow globe. Wow. I had no idea. You can carry scissors up to, what, 4 inches now, but you can't bring a mini-snow globe?

Oh well, such is life. Not a big deal right now. I'm going home.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back in the States

Well, I'm sitting here in the Philadelphia airport, after a long nights of flights from Kuwait to the US via Germany. It's hard to believe I'm here.

We were welcomed at Fort Dix, New Jersey by a group of USO volunteers and Vietnam Vets. As one man spoke, it occurred to me for the first time that I'm a veteran now.

It's not like I didn't know it before, but as he spoke, I realized I was part of that group. It is an odd feeling.

Most of all I just feel incredibly blessed to be back here. I am enjoying seeing Americans walking around, as well as all the green outdoors, as we drove from Fort Dix to the Philadelphia Airport. I also saw Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play, and it reminded me that football season is just around the corner. It's really good to be back in the States.