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The Catholic Defender: Thanksgiving On The Mojave

The Mojave Desert was first inhabited by the American Indian until Catholic Priest, Father Francisco Garces traveled what was called the Old Mojave Trail in 1796.

Father was the first recorded European to travel and explore the terrain.

In 1844, Captain John C. Freeman and frontiersman scout Kit Carson were first to visit what is now the Fort Irwin National Training Center establishing camps along the Old Spanish Trail.

In 1846, with the California Gold Rush, Indian wars ensured. There were raids, horse stealing, prospecting, bringing more Calvary into the area.

On August 9, 1979, the Department of the Army established Fort Irwin as the site for the National Training Center covering over 1,000 miles of rugged desert terrain.

In 1985 it was here that first saw the M1 Abrams tank and the M2 Bradley, several units from the 101st Airborne and the 24th Infantry Division first began participating in rotations at the Mojave.

This is where my story begins, it was May 1985 I was sent to my first duty Station at Fort Stewart Georgia (the 24th Infantry Division), and placed in a Forward Support Battalion in the Medical Company. I was placed in the Ambulance Platoon which was divided into two groups. One had the Field Medical Ambulances wheeled section and the other group manned the M113 Track vehicles.

At that time the Track Pack comprised of men only as the move to move females into the Track Pack had not yet taken place. This particular event took place in the fall of 1985 when we deployed to Fort Irwin California to do some desert training. Many times in my Military career, I would miss important events due to training exercises. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Thanksgiving so on and so forth. We made up for those when we arrived back at home.

The following is a true story that took place in the Old West. I can’t help but think of the great movies made for so many years. You can see the evidence of field problems gone by as Soldiers leave their mark.

I have served in the Army for more than 26 years. Much of my witness involves the Military. The following takes place at Ft. Irwin, California at the National Training Center (NTC):

I remember a particular Thanksgiving I spent at National Training Center (NTC) in 1985. I was a Medic supporting one of our unit’s when my Squad Leader came and took my Field Ambulance (FLA) with all my gear in it. He told me to hang tight where I was until 20:00 and then walk towards the Command Post (CP) where they would be waiting for me. I waited there until 20:00 as instructed and then walked to where they were suppose to be waiting for me.

Now we were set up on a mountain range encamped on the other side of this valley when I began my walk. I went to the location to find that everyone had moved out. The problem was that it was by this time getting dark. I looked back across from where I began and took off for that place only to find that I could not find it.

It all looked so much the same. I went back and forth across that valley five or six times trying to relocate where I originally took off from.

I found myself in a difficult situation. I was now lost out there at NTC on foot with only one canteen of water.

It was dark. I could not find any sign of light or anything. I kept walking thinking I should run into something somewhere. Off in the distance I could hear tanks barreling down and I certainly didn’t want to be hit by one of those bad boys.

I kept walking, I was sweating alot as it was still hot and humid even at night there in the Southwest American Mojave Desert. I kept watching for rattlesnakes as I certainly didn’t want to walk into a nest of those things out there.

It was so dark I could not find anything that had any lights or any camp. I was in real trouble but I kept moving. I was out there all night long. I prayed, I sang, I thought badly of my leadership, I thought of home. Most importantly, I was determined to survive.

I had ran out of water hours into my forced foot march. I found myself to the point of vowing I would never give up but keep moving, I had to keep going. About an hour before daybreak, I finally found a camp some 15 miles away with another unit.

They were shocked to have a Soldier walk in the way that I did. I was so thankful to have finally found anybody out there in that place. What I remember taking from this experience was to never do that to one of my Soldiers, but also to never give up.

I had in my heart Hosea 13:5, “I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.” I trusted in God to help me through that long evening. People have died out there in training accidents where Soldiers get lost. That happened not too long ago at Ft. Hood when a Soldier got lost doing a night Land Navigation course.

Needless to say, I was so thankful to God for being there with me through that ordeal. He has been with me a lot in my career!!!

He is also with you, even when your walking in darkness and you can’t see the light. Where there is a shadow, there is some light. The Lord Jesus loves you so much! Keep Him in your sights at all times and He will help you through the darkness!!! God bless you all!

Come, Holy Spirit, to rest in our broken hearts and tend to our broken lives. Bear us up on wings of eagles when our hope lies crushed below the cross of our past. Release us from the shame and grieving that hobble our pursuit of joy in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Comfort our pain. Help us trust in Christ’s complete victory over evil, so we may endure what we have suffered until that day when all we cannot see and cannot know is finally made clear. Heal us with a fuller understanding God’s grace, so we may be open to sustenance to continue our recovery. Help us discern the sure direction of God’s whisper when noise and confusion threaten to send us on mistaken pathways. Provide us generously with Your counsel, so we may not be lost in a wilderness of sorrow, doubt and despair but, rather, are able to hear over our shoulder which way to go, what way turn to choose, which time to rest and which time to push forward. We ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

I challenge anyone hearing my voice to watch this video from beginning to end. This brought tears to my eyes. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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