The Catholic Defender: Easter At JRTC Ft. Polk Louisiana 2008
In the summer of 2008 while deployed to a 30 day training cycle at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) Ft. Polk Louisiana, this training event took place through Easter. The 2-5 Cavalry was preparing to return for another deployment to Iraq so many things needed to be met for the preparation due.
As out Unit's Medical Platoon Sargent I was responsible for the medical support for nearly 1,000 Soldiers. I have my Line Medics to ensure training was realistic, I had the Forward Aid Station (FAS) and the Main Aid Station (MAS) ensuring that all the equipment was serviceable and accountable and Soldier Medics were trained and prepared for what may come.
There had to be much coordination with all the other Battalion Elements so everyone was on the same sheet of music. Triage is a very important issue to save the most possible injured causalities and how to treat them. In the previous deployment to Irag, we saved many of our wounded. I am so thankful for the great Solider Medics that I served with during this time in our Nations history. To know what to do when you have the wounded come in to your area of operation, the Delayed casualties, the Immediates, the Minimals, and the Expectants (DIME). For every Soldier we are able to save from their wounds, there is a family at home waiting for them!
Combat Life Savers is another major emphasis that helps the medical response when an element is received casualties. This training can be very stressful, much is going on all the time. Faith is a huge asset under such conditions. We did not have a Catholic priest available so I was graced to work with our Battalion Chaplain in supporting our Catholics within the Battalion. For our service, I picked songs for us and I had the Liturgy of the Word for Easter. The Chaplains Assistant was a good guitar player and helped me in the arrangements. He particularly liked the song, "Roll Away The Stone", one of my Easter favorites.
In 2008, the Archdiocese of the Military had changed the Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM) have the Eucharist with them in the field as had been done previous to 2007. There had been Protestant Brigade Chaplains who had tried to take control of the Eucharist, something they were not allowed to do but some tried. I would not surrender Jesus to any Protestant Minister, no matter how sincere they might be. The Church felt that was a problem so the Liturgy of the Word services was what we had to work with.
One thing I always enjoyed while deployed in these training exercises was the zillion opportunities to answer questions people have about the Catholic Church. Despite all the modern technologies that the Soldiers are able to have on their off times, the computers, the ipads, the phones, the games, still there are still opportunities to become philosophers.
During Holy Week our Chaplains Assistant asked me about Purgatory and where in the Bible do we find this place. That is a very interesting topic and I sure love to cover it. I answered him first addressing Jesus from the Cross. Luke 23:39-43 states, "Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
I asked him where did Jesus and St. Dismas (the Good Thief) go? His response was Heaven, that they went to Heaven? Then I shared 1 Peter 3:18-21, "For Christ also suffered* for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God* for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"...
At this point, the Chaplains Assistant became silent as he listed to what I was saying, I then recalled John 20:16-17, "Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni, which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
My last point that I made at this time I shared Matthew 27:51-54, "And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.* The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
At this point I was called to the Aid Station as I had a training event for my Line Co Medics and I left him with a lot to think about, and this was but the beginning. 2 Timothy 1:8 states, "So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."