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! :)

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.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A couple thought provoking articles

Here are a couple of thought provoking articles. Not endorsing everything the authors say, but they're both relevant reads:

The first deals with the double-standard often applied to religion in the US:

"We must overcome our fear of Islam"

The second questions the decision of the Bush Administration to sell arms to Saudi Arabia:

"Don't sell to Saudis"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Is it worth it?

I leave here (soon). I wonder: is it worth it? It the war worth the sacrifice? The sacrifice entails not just those killed in action, but also those who were wounded, as well as the time away from home, the years lost with kids, the marriages broken up (marriage counseling is my primary form of counseling over here) and the overall effects of stress. One chaplain I know believes that one year over here takes 4 years off of a person's overall lifespan. I'm not sure I agree with that, but the point he's making is that the overall stress levels can't be good for a person.

So.... is it worth it?

I believe it is. I can't explain it, but it is.

The war we're seeing over here is different than what you all see at home. The reality is that most Americans do not realize we are at war, except from daily news clips- always negative. There is no food or gas rationing, no draft, no attacks on the homeland (since 11 September 2001) and nothing that would indicate a nation at war.

Maybe that's part of the reason for the strong anti-war sentiment. Too few people making too large of a sacrifice on behalf of too many people who don't remember we're at war.

The point? The point is that the Iraq war is a relatively small war in comparison to previous wars, if you compare any of the following criteria: the casualties; the number of Soldiers actually fighting; the cost, financially, when adjusted for inflation; and most of all, the effect on day to day life.

So, we have a relatively small war, being fought by a handful of professional Soldiers, who are making uncounted sacrifices (since we won't know the long term effects for years) for a war that most Americans think is stupid.

Is it worth it? I still think so. I get frustrated, as do ALL Soldiers. I have given up 14 months of my life away. My youngest son was finishing pre-school when I left, and now he will be starting 1st grade. I will never have that year+ back again. I have seen horrific things, had mortars and rockets blow up around me over and over again. I have traveled around Baghdad by helicopter, humvee and tank. There was an adjustment period before I left, and there will be an adjustment period when I return. All told, this deployment affected almost 2 years of my life.

But I would do it again. Have I enjoyed all of it? Definitely not. Do I think Iraq will become a paradise and beacon of democracy? No, probably not.

I would do it again, though, because it's the right thing to do. I believe this war has been fought with the right intentions. We started wrong (didn't go in with enough Soldiers). But we're making a difference. Things are getting better, slowly but surely. We need to stop thinking about winning or losing. We should worry less about our national pride and more about the long term ramifications of leaving or staying.

We won the war. I.e., we invaded Iraq, toppled Saddam, and enforced the inspections. We established the roots of a democracy. We could leave and say we won.

We're struggling now to succeed with the nation building aspect. By "we" I include the Iraqis of course. The US, Britain, Australia, Denmark, South Korea, Japan, Macedonia, Georgia (the nation), Slovenia and a bunch of other nations are invested in trying to bring a functioning and free society together.

It may or may not work out. But the sacrifice is worth the possible benefits.

In a similar way, God has allowed the possibility of sin in our world because the possibility of love is worth it. Humans have the capacity to love and to hate, and sometimes we choose hate. God could end all sin by removing our free will. But this would remove the possibility of love. You cannot truly love if you have no free will.

By trying to help the Iraqis stand up a free nation, we are betting on freedom. It might not work. But I think it's worth a try. I would do it over again.