One particular dream had the greatest impact on me. After a major debate in the room where I took on a number of those attacking the Catholic Church, I went to bed troubled.
I slept hard, but I dreamed that God's Church, the Catholic Church, was dead.
I felt such despair, and sadness I began to cry. I found myself in a church that was in ruins, that the Sanctuary was in ruins and that Christ on the cross was shedding tears for His Body, the Church.
I never felt such anguish, I cried so much that I woke up out of my sleep totally wet from crying. My pillow, the bed, and the blankets were all wet.
I sat up as it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was a dream. I recalled my Confirmation that took place in Blue Springs Mo on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan.
I renewed my vows and told the Lord that I will be a soldier for Him. I will not betray Him and leave the Church even when people around me do. I will do my best to remain loyal and stand for Him. A promise that I have tried to keep since 1978.
Since that time I have been graced to have witnessed thousands of conversions. I use to love to read the "Catholic Digest" because it showcased conversion stories.
I think that had a lot on influence on me. I have always felt inspired by the testimonies of those who converted to the Catholic Faith.
I am so thankful that I have been involved in apologetic and watch this movement to the Catholic Faith continue to grow. When I enlisted in to the United States Army, my faith was front and center. In Basic Training, I was given the nickname "Padre" by my Platoon. I was always encouraging people to go to Mass on Sunday.
I became a Eucharistic Minister as early as 1985 when I was stationed at Ft. Stewart Georgia. When we deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, I was commissioned by the Archdiocese of the Military to conduct Catholic Communion services. That was an honor I would do until 2007 when the Archdiocese of the Military changed their policy on Lay Eucharistic Ministers in combat situations.
This last deployment to Iraq, I was commissioned by the Archdiocese of the Military to conduct lay liturgy of the Word services. We could lead a service without Communion. I was stationed in Germany, Korea, deployed to Iraq, I have always been involved with the RCIA. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have played such a part serving our Country and the Church.
For many, I was the only church they might see. A lot of them would never have thought to go see a Chaplain, but because of the many discussions, many did go see the Chaplain.
I arrived in the early summer of 1985 at Ft. Stewart GA straight from Basic Training (Boot Camp) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to a Medical Company in a Support Battalion in the 24th Infantry Division.
I was assigned in the Ambulance Platoon and placed in the "Track Pack" being responsible for a M113 Track medical vehicle. I would be assigned to a Platoon in one of the Companies in the Battalion, to the Platoon, I would earn the title, "Doc". During the first few months there I supported as Medic to deploy to the National Training Center where I was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for my work in those Companies. I also went when our Battalion deployed to NTC. So I supported two Company Platoons and then went again when our Battalion deployed. That is a total of 90 days I was at NTC in the first few months I was assigned there.
One dark night on 10 April 1986, I was awakened by my Platoon SGT that we were to report at the Company ASAP because a terrible accident just happened. A Chinook and Blackhawk helicopter conducting midnight maneuvers crashed over the swamps at Ft. Stewart. It was not very far from our housing area. I quickly reported to the Company as we learned our responsibility in retrieving the casualties from the crash site.
It was about a 100-150 yard distance from where the crash site was and to a clearing that we were able to park our ambulances. We had to carry the casualties through brush, woods, and swamps to reach the clearing. To make matters worse, JP-4 fuel saturated the swamp making it dangerous to wade through the swamp.
My boots and BDU trousers had to be thrown away because of the contamination and I had sores on my legs for weeks before I healed from trudging through the swamps there. As we carried the casualties by litter out of that area, I prayed the Rosary on their behalf. It was a terrible scene and these Soldiers were Patriots for their Country.
In 2002, about 16 years later while I was assigned in New Orleans, the Archdiocese of New Orleans through a Deacon working there that I was working with at the time asked me to write a autobiography in which I placed the story of the helicopter crash in my story. This writing Catholic Author, Convert, and Apologist Steve Ray wanted a copy of my autobiography to be placed with his many conversion stories on his web-page. For me, this was a high honor.
In 2007 while I was deployed in Iraq with the 2-5 Calvary out of Ft. Hood TX, I had just returned from a mission out side the wire when upon checking my emails, I quickly discovered that Steve Ray and members of his Web-Page were attempting to reach me. The Board had been following my deployment to Iraq and they were a great blessing to me. What they were wanting me to know was that a gentleman was reading through Steve's conversion stories and had stumbled on my autobiography.
Reading through my story he came to the helicopter crash site when he realized the story I was writing about concerned him. This totally blew his mind as he had not seen this before. Why this gentleman was trying to get a hold of me, his brother was one of the casualties that I had helped carry out of that swamp, plus praying the Rosary for them at that point meant a great deal to this man.
Even though it had been 22 years since the accident, to learn that a Soldier was praying for his brother from the crash site meant much to him and he wanted to show me his appreciation. Later, after returning back to Ft. Hood, I was able to reach this gentleman and learned of his being a solid Catholic who had made a life owning a Catholic Book Store. This experience was a great blessing to me and this story reminds me of the importance of praying for your loved ones.
Prayer truly does transcend time and space as God is outside the boundary of time.
O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of Divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living.