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! :)

Thursday, July 29, 2004


As a Reservist in the Army, I live the vast majority of my life on the civilian side.  Thus, there are certain things that really jump out when I am training or on duty.  One thing is respect.  The use of the salutation "sir" or "ma'am" in recognition of rank, is an example of this.  It may sound strange to those of you who are active duty or lifelong member of the military, but this is still a big change for a guy who is a pastor in the civilian world.

A couple of examples:  I was walking out of the PX (Post Exchange- basically a small Walmart type store), and a young soldier was talking on his cell phone.  As I walked out, he literally stopped mid sentence dropped his phone to his other (left) hand, came to attention and saluted.  I returned his salute, and he returned to his conversation.  Another example...There have been scores of families on post the last day with the young soldiers coming out of training.  I assume graduation is this weekend.  You have seen these baby-faced soldiers walking around with moms and dads, girlfriends and boyfriends, and other assorted loved ones...thankful to finally be done with their grueling training.  Last night as I was walking out of military clothing, heading to the dry cleaners, a young soldier was sitting on a bench, engrossed in a conversation with a young woman who was obviously his girlfriend.  As I turned the corner, I spotted them and he immediated popped up from the bench, came to attention, and saluted me.  Truthfully, it was a little embarrassing.  Who am I?  Just a pastor with a different symbol on my shoulder.

But that's the point.  In the Army is has NOTHING to do with the individual.  I never, ever get saluted.  What enlisted soldiers are saluting is the commission- the fact that I am an officer.  It is nothing personal, and has nothing to do with whether or not I merit it.  It is respect to the uniform, just as when I salute a higher ranking officer, I am rendering due respect to the rank.

Respect is a good thing.  We lack it in our society (witness the election campaigns).  Would that more 19 year olds act like the ones in the Army.


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