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Commentary: Chaplain reports from inside Iraq

 


Commentary: Chaplain reports from inside Iraq

 

June 17, 2004                

By John D. Read*

Here I am, again, serving in a war zone. The last time I did this was as a patriot battalion chaplain in Saudi Arabia 12 years ago. I was medically evacuated and diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia on May 26, 1992. I am farther north this time and, at times, feel that I am right in the middle of a hornet’s nest.

I returned to active duty from medical retirement in November 1994. Two promotions later, I now serve as the deputy command chaplain for the Multi National Corps – Iraq. We are the senior war fighting operational organization in this part of the world. We are 135,000 strong. We are primarily America’s daughters and sons. We are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

We have no less that 40 other nations who are here serving with us. We have approximately 250 chaplains of all faith groups and nations as well as a comparable number of enlisted chaplain assistants.

  It is the most incredibly rich and rewarding worship experience. Imagine worship that not only includes U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, but also includes British, Dutch, Australian, Korean and Japanese troops, as well as civilians and contractors. It is phenomenal experience—one of the best of my career. 

I also do a lot of counseling, no surprise -- everything from folks with simple kinds of adjustment issues to very complex emotional and relational problems. I serve on the repatriation team as the chaplain, which meant that I got to spend some time with Thomas Hamill a few weeks ago. (Hamill, a native of Macon, Ga., was held as a hostage in Iraq.) Another definite highlight!

 

I guess if I had to sum it up in a nutshell, the religious and spiritual support we offer in this environment is designed to normalize this anything but normal experience. I am proud to be a United Methodist Army Chaplain, and I am proud to come from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. I am proud to be an American, more proud than I have ever been and I hope you are as well.

It is my great calling, responsibility and joy to shepherd this particular flock. It is one of the reasons I was spared an early death 12 years ago. These young folks, and even a few of us older ones, are our country’s daughters and sons. We are fighting this war on terror for you. If terror wins here, it will win other places as well, and that is the enemy’s plan.

Whether you agree with the war or not, or even the present administration in this election year, please pray for us. We continue to take casualties, both killed in action and wounded in action.

A final note, pray for our families as well. My wonderful and incredible wife and best friend, Laura, has made it easier for me to do this by the support she has always provided. They go through a different kind of war, waiting and hoping.

*Read is a United Methodist Army chaplain serving in Iraq.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

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