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! :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Well, yesterday was my last day "in the office" at Church of the Cross for a while. This weekend I will be leading worship, but today we are headed to Minnesota for a wedding and will return on Saturday.

So what's next? Home station training. We will spend much of the next two weeks at Fort Des Moines, working on PT (physical training), WTT (i.e., basic Army skills), Unit Ministry Team skills, and a variety of other training to get prepared for deployment. We will also be packing and checking on details we may have missed over the past couple of months.

Some have asked about my unit: I am in a two person unit called the 118th Chaplain Detachment. It is just myself, and my chaplain assistant. This is a unique unit because of its size, but also because it makes us readily deployable to wherever we are needed. I don't think I will find out where we will be headed until I get to Kuwait. It's interesting to be going into this without knowing, and it helps us to remain focused on just getting prepared for any situation.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Pop Culture and Christianity

One of the changes that I will have in my ministry as an Army Chaplain is greater contact with unchurched soldiers. As a pastor, the reality is that the vast majority of people with whom I interact on a daily basis are already Christians or at least leaning strongly in that direction. (this reminds us why it is so important that all Christians take ministry seriously, because they will probably have a greater contact with, and greater impact on the lives of unchurched people than a pastor will ever have)

As a chaplain, however, I will mix with soldiers of all faiths, including no faith. While the Army, from my perspective, has a decidedly positive climate toward Christianity, it will be interesting to be able to run in circles different than I do now.

Along those lines, another book I'm reading right now looks at the intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture. The book is called Pop Goes Religion, and consists of a series of articles written by author Terry Mattingly over the past ten years. It's an entertaining read and when you look at our culture, there is more wrestling with Christianity (in a good way) in pop culture than most of us are willing to admit!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Iraq is a democracy

I don't know how many of you saw the recent headlines that a permanent, national unity government has been formed in Iraq. This government consists of Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, and Christians, elected by the people of Iraq.

Why aren't we excited? Isn't that what we came to do? (Not to mention that Saddam Hussein is being tried by the Iraqis for crimes against humanity)

There has certainly been a tremendous loss of life- though far less than almost any war we have fought in the past. Each one of those lost lives is important and tragic. Yet those that assumed we would fight a war without losing people were not mislead by the President or anyone in the military.

There are also struggles ahead. There is a strong insurgency that is fighting not just the US and all of the coalition partners, but fighting even more so against the Iraqis who want to be free. The insurgency will not away quickly, but we must have the resolve to see this through.

Yet, at the heart of all of this is the truth that Iraq has now join the community of nations that embrace democracy. It's too bad that the overwhelming wave of anxiety that the media has helped to foster cannot help people to see what's really going on here. What would be even worse is if we were to give into the notion that we should cut and run. Not only would that disrespect the mission of those who have already given their lives for this cause, it would also prove to the world that we Americans truly do not care about others, and it would represent an act of great betrayal toward those Iraqis striving for freedom.

Friday, May 26, 2006


A lot of people have asked me how often I will be able to communicate with my family while deployed. The answer is: quite a bit. Email access in most areas is excellent. I don't yet know exactly where I will be deployed (I had thought I was going to Balad, but now I have found out that my exact assignment has not been made), so I can't say for sure what daily life, including communication, will be like. But email access will most likely be very, very good. In addition, I should have access to phone banks, if not a phone in my office, with which I can use a global calling card.

I'm also thinking about communication because I'm reading a book full of letters and emails collected from soldiers and their families, both American and from other nations, over the past 300 years. It's fascinating. The book is called Behind the Lines, and is written by Andrew Carroll. Some of the letters are funny, some are insightful into the historical context, and others are tear-jerkers. I recommend it to anyone interested in military history from a different angle.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Iraqis turning to Christ?

I read an encouraging account today of the Gospel spreading in Iraq. Author Joel Rosenberg, a Jewish convert to Christianity, gives details of these words of encouragement from Iraqi General Georges Sada, himself a convert to Christianity. General Sada talks about how Saddam Hussein orders WMD moved to Syria shortly before the Iraq war began, but he also talks about new churches popping up in Iraq and the frequency of visions of Christ that many converts have had. You can read the account at Joel Rosenberg's blog:

He wrote about this interview on May 23rd, so you may need to scroll down, or read the archives, depending on when you read this!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Combat Lifesaver

Last week I was on AT (Active Training) for a 5 day course called the Combat Lifesaver Course. This course teaches very basic medical care, to be given in the midst of combat. I was the only chaplain in the class, but after taking it, I believe that every chaplain should take it. First, we do not carry weapons, so the offering of basic medical care would not hinder us from our primary mission, which is to provide spiritual comfort and care. Second, a good chaplain is with his soldiers; a chaplain won't be very effective if he or she sits in an office on post and never gets outside the wire with the soldiers, or spends time where they spend time. Combat Lifesaver is one more opportunity to put this truth into action and get engaged.

The course taught us very basic medical treatments such as starting an IV, treating chest puncture wounds (sucking chest wounds), treating tension pneumothorax (when the lung collapses and the body cavity fills with air, threatening to collapse the other lung), and a variety of other basic combat injuries.

I enjoyed the training. It's good stuff to know. I hope that I never have to use it, but it's knowledge that I have if I need it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The work of chaplains

There is a great article from the Washington Post about the work of Army chaplains. It's long, but worth the read. Click on the word article above to be directed to the story.